In this fast-paced courtroom drama noir remake of the 1956 film, Peter Hyams (End of Days) recruits Michael Douglas, Jesse Metcalf and Amber Tamblyn to star in a crime triangle where young, pulitzer-thirsty investigative reporter C.J. Nicholas (Metcalf) falsely implicates himself in a murder of a young street hooker to bring down a corrupt district attorney (Douglas). Peter Hyams has a knack for telling the story with ease, leaving no questions to the audience accept for the important plot-driven ones. At times the movie causes quite a stir and there’s no doubt that you’ll be rooting someone on during a chase.
Michael Douglas is confident and intimidating as usual. He’s one of these actors who manages to own the screen whenever he’s on it, and so does his character for that matter. A dauntless and presumptuous lawyer, Mark Hunter leads the District Attorney’s office in an undefeated-championship strategy for the office of governor and is being accused of planting evidence in order to win his cases. If this weren’t a remake, it might have sounded cliche, but we can look the other way instead. Meanwhile, C.J. Nichols decides he’s found a way to prove the corruption in the D.A.’s office and sets out to do it in a most unorthodox method of setting himself up for murder. Unfortunately for him, the corruption is quite heavier than he anticipated and he finds himself imprisoned for longer than he anticipated.
Jesse Metcalf is as strong an actor as Douglas as he portrays a conflicted but calculating and eager young journalist. The film allows both him and Douglas to show how the desire for fame and success can overshadow morals and ethical behaviors, sometimes just for the chance at finding the answer to a simple question. Proof is what everyone is after in this striking film and, for me, the proof I got out of it was that everyone in the movie can act and act well.
If Amber Tamblyn keeps going on this path, she is going to find herself with an even stronger career as well. Not only is she sexy and bold, but she pulls off almost every side of a young, dress-for-success female attorney and when it comes to her romantic involvement, her actions are quite believable because of her emoting and delivery. If she doesn’t get more work because of this film, I’d be very surprised.
While the editing is seamless, it sometimes lacks the time it takes for a break-taking moment to sink in, such as the romance between Metcalf and Tamblyn, most likely an intentional tool to keep the audience engaged with the real plot. However, it runs the risk of losing the audience’s connection with the developed characters, such as Metcalf’s supporting co-star Joel Moore who’s character is increasingly crucial to the plot, yet tossed to the background with no recoil from his best friend. This found me disappointed and mistrusting of how the rest of the movie would pan out. This is a common mistake that many filmmakers persue, especially in action flicks, a genre which Hyams is no stranger to. When is Hollywood going to understand that human life is valuable to the audience and when taken into consideration makes for a deeply felt connection with the audience and thus a better film?
Alas, the important part of this movie is the end, and it’s hidden well. Many times a director may attempt to throw the audience off with shots of various characters making suspicious faces, and instead this movie is, start to finish, completely in the moment with no looking back or over-indulging in mystery. This is the greatest part of Hyams’ direction and thus the greatest part of the movie.