Based on a 1956 Fritz Lang movie of the same title, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt tells the thrilling yet hard-to-swallow tale of a reporter who frames himself in order to bring down a powerful, smug, and corrupt district attorney. The original -- a minor noir starring Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine -- is a strange film to tap for a renovation, even more so to transform into a modern car-chase thriller. Veteran director Peter Hyams is no stranger to building suspense among preposterous circumstances, but like The Relic and End of Days before it, while the ride can sometimes be invigorating and distracting, often it's just numbingly head-scratching, and by the final twist, credulity is so stretched as to render the movie ineffective.
The circus begins when upstart TV investigative reporter C.J. Nicholas (Jesse Metcalfe) is convinced that Louisiana D.A. Mark Hunter's (Michael Douglas) success rate is inflated by fabricated evidence, so Nicholas decides that the genius thing to do would be to frame himself for a crime, and when Hunter comes at him, guns-a-blazin', his producer (Joel Moore) will whip out the exonerating clue and all will be peachy. Of course, things go wrong along the way and everything devolves into the usual sea of entanglements, with Nicholas on death row and his loyal love interest and Hunter's assistant D.A. (Amber Tamblyn) standing by him.
Michael Douglas brings his usual quiver of creeps to the über-villain, and maybe it's just the been-there/done-that of it all, but the whole performance plays like a caricature of itself. Beyond that, the rest of the usually able cast, which also includes the constantly misused Orlando Jones, is more in service to the sea of a plot. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is not a particularly bad movie; there's fun to be had in a rickety Coney Island roller-coaster manner, and it's not terrible late at night on the couch with a bag of warm popcorn, though it is just too silly and slight for all its bluster.