If Reasonable Doubt had been made more than a decade ago, it would have been directed by Alan Smithee. Alas, that famous pseudonym for helmers who wanted their names removed from their films has long been retired. So this legal thriller, starring Dominic Cooper and Samuel L. Jackson, is officially credited to one Peter P. Coudins, although it’s actually the work of British director Peter Howitt (Sliding Doors). It’s easy to see the reasons for the evasion.
The film concerns the nasty chain of events that occur after hotshot Chicago District Attorney Mitch Brockden (Cooper) accidentally runs down a pedestrian while driving home after a bender celebrating his latest victory. Fearful of the consequences should he reveal himself, Mitch calls 911 from a nearby pay phone and flees the scene.
Shortly after, the victim’s bloody and battered corpse is found in a van driven by auto mechanic Clinton Davis (Jackson), who claims that he was merely trying to get the man to a hospital. Davis is promptly charged with murder, and anyone remotely familiar with vintage noir thrillers will be quick to guess that Mitch gets himself assigned to prosecute the case.
Desperately trying to fudge the prosecution so that an innocent man will go free, Mitch becomes increasingly entwined in a labyrinth of deceptions and risky behavior. Things become even more complicated when Davis goes free, thanks to a helpful lie provided by Mitch’s stepbrother (Ryan Robbins) who nobody knows about, and Mitch becomes convinced that Davis is actually a serial killer responsible for a string of recent murders.
Mitch single-handedly attempts to prove Davis’ guilt, only to find himself embroiled in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with the not-so-innocent man and increasingly under the suspicion of a female detective (Gloria Reuben).
Director Howitt, sorry, Coudins, keeps things moving at an exceedingly brisk pace and relentlessly pours on the over-emphatic musical score, no doubt hoping that audiences will overlook the numerous plot holes. Running less than 80 minutes before the endless end credits, the film certainly deserves points for efficiency. But that’s about it, since even those weaned on a steady diet of Law and Order episodes will be rolling their eyes at the endless contrivances of the screenplay by Peter A. Dowling (Flight Plan).
Cooper, in the sort of role that would have once been played by Michael Douglas, never manages to make us care about Mitch’s fate, while Jackson has played so many glowering bad guys that there’s never any question that Davis is up to no good. By the time the film reaches its predictable violent conclusion, there’s little doubt, reasonable or otherwise, that our time has been wasted.
Production: Grindstone Entertainment Group, South Creek Pictures, Bavariapool International Coproductions
Cast: Dominic Cooper, Samuel L. Jackson, Gloria Reuben, Ryan Robbins, Erin Karpluk, Dylan Taylor
Director: Peter P. Croudins
Screenplay: Peter A. Dowling
Producers: Dave Valleau, Silvio Muraglia, Fredrik Malmberg, Frank Buchs, Daniel Wagner
Executive producers: Barry Brooker, Stan Wertlieb, Marc Garbizon, Kyle Irving, John Ptak, John Pantages, James Gibb
Director of photography: Brian Pearson
Editor: Richard Schwadel
Production designer: Craig Sandells
Costume designer: Patti Henderson
Rated R, 90 minutes