Directed By: Peter Hyams
Starring: Michael Douglas, Jesse Metcalfe, Amber Tamblyn, Orlando Jones, Joel David Moore
How far would you go to take down a dirty District Attorney who just might be your next Governor. Yeah me too, Okay what if you were a hungry cub reporter for a small market TV station dying to get the networks attention.
CJ Nicholas, Jesse Metcalfe, has already moved up from the local news in Buffalo to Shreveport and he’s ready to make the next jump. However that’s going to be difficult because his investigative unit has been disbanded due to budget cuts and it’s hard to get the attention of the big market stations covering coffee taste tests and geriatric 10Ks. Now taking down a DA with political aspirations, that would get some attention. Luckily for CJ he’s got exactly that.
Mark Hunter, Michael Douglas, is the District Attorney with political ambitions. He’s smooth and good. He’s won seventeen straight cases. All of them hinged on DNA evidence, most of them with DNA evidence that was introduced late in the trial. CJ smells a rat, but how can he prove misconduct. Go back and examine the evidence of the seventeen trials and look for tampering. Well that’s one way to do it but it probably wouldn’t get him a job in a bigger market. CJ comes up with the idea to wait for the next homicide, find out the details of the case and plant enough evidence to incriminate himself, but not enough to make a conviction a slam dunk. Then when Hunter needs a little bit more to get a guilty verdict he will have to resort to introducing tampered DNA evidence. Then CJ’s friend and accomplice Corey, Joel David Moore, will present the documentation that all of the evidence was planted to begin with so the DNA evidence just presented by Hunter must have been falsified.
Well everything goes exactly as planned until, well let’s just say that a man that has tampered with the evidence in seventeen trials to grease the rails to the Governors office is not going to go down without a fight. CJ gets convicted. Now he’s got to rely on his girlfriend Ella, Amber Tamblyn, who conveniently works in the DA’s office to find the DVD that he and Corey made that will exonerate him and ruin Hunter.
The movie is based on a old RKO picture from 1956 of the same name with the screenplay updated by the director Peter Hyams. It’s an attempt at, I guess you would call it neo noir, but it lacks the grit and sweat of good noir. Every thing is a little too clean, too pat. The moral ambiguity present in good noir is simply not present or buried too deeply. So it fails at noir. It could work as a straight suspense movie, but what are supposed to be subtle clues are just too obvious. You would really have to be a little dense not to see the ending from nearly the beginning of the film.
Still there are things to enjoy here. Michael Douglas doesn’t have a lot of screen time but his performance is flawless. Amber Tamblyn also provides a great performance and is very easy on the eyes. Orlando Jones is great as an honest police detective. They provide one of the best scenes in the movie when Hunter’s dirty investigator tries to run Ella down in a parking garage. The driving in that scene is quite impressive as well. Shreveport looks great in the movie and Hyams makes good use of Louisiana talent. Jesse Metcalfe is good but he plays CJ a little too straight. Besides some over obvious clues dropped throughout the movie there is never any evidence that CJ is morally bent. Certain things are explained to you, but they are not shown. The story is more believable the less time Metcalfe is on screen. I don’t really think this is Metcalfe’s fault but with the screenplay and direction.
The video is presented in wide screen format. It’s generally good, but some dark scenes are a little hazy and grainy. The cinematography makes Shreveport look beautiful, but that actually plays against the tone of the movie. It’s brisk and bright when it should be dark and dank, but the actual video looks great. I noticed a little aliasing in some scenes but no moire or other artifacts that are going to interfere with the viewing of the film.
The audio is presented in 5.1 Surround Sound with English and Spanish subtitles. The sound is used heavily to help build tension and suspense. Quiet moments followed by loud events and then quiet again, through all of this though the dialog is always clear and easily understood. The score by David Shire is also heavily relied on to build mood. Unfortunately it often comes across as a little melodramatic. Even with the broad range of dynamics I never noticed any distortion or other compression artifacts.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The DVD comes in a ECO-BOX, it uses less plastic than a standard Amaray case, with a cardboard slipcase. The artwork is bold but elegant and does a better job of evoking the mood I think the filmmakers were going for than the actual movie. There are a couple of featurettes; one on the making of the movie and one on how forensic evidence is handled in the real world, a nice touch considering the subject matter of the movie. There is also a audio commentary with Jesse Metcalfe and Peter Hyams that provides quite a bit of insight into the way the film was made.
This is not a bad movie it’s just one that is a little frustrating because it should have been better. I think the filmmakers got a little caught up in the mechanics of the story and forgot how important mood and tone are to noir. Still, I’ll take a mediocre movie based in Shreveport over another mediocre movie based in LA or New York any day.
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10
The Movie 6/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10