One of the most beloved character actors around is Samuel L. Jackson. Ever since the early 90’s, Samuel has made a name for himself with his big and bold personality. From staring alongside Bruce Willis in Die Hard with Vengeance, to earning an Oscar nomination for his iconic role in Pulp Fiction, Jackson really has become an acting icon. Since then, he has turned that success into a wide versatility of roles, such as being a Jedi in Star Wars and Nick Fury in The Avengers.
Even with a great deal of success in his career, Jackson does have a bit of a mixed resume behind him. It seems like for every great film he does, there is a film that is just really lackluster, especially of late. Films like The Spirit, Jumper, The Man, and Soul Men were all lackluster efforts that really just wasted his talents as an actor. Jackson’s latest film Reasonable Doubt gives him the opportunity to be the villain, a role he relishes. Sadly, this seems like it is one of Jackson’s weaker films, as Reasonable Doubt is a bore.
Reasonable Doubt follows a district attorney named Mitch Brockden, whose life is flipped upside down when he is involved in a hit and run accident.
Most legal thrillers like this tend to suffer in pace, often feeling very dry and boring. Reasonable Doubt surprisingly moves quite well, with a nice sense of pacing and timing. This film really never takes a moment to stop and linger, and for what it was going for, that was a wise decision to make.
Although Samuel Jackson is the big name in the cast, Dominic Cooper is the lead here. To me, Cooper is one of the most underrated actors in the industry, with his performance (or performances) in The Devil’s Double being one of the best in recent memory. Here, Cooper is not given a lot to work with, but does a very solid and steady performance. Its easy to understand his frustrations and his desire to fix this situation, and that is due to his performance here.
Reasonable Doubt contains its fair share of highlight moments that actually achieve at what the movie was going for. English director Peter Howitt uses his aesthetics well to create some rather tense moments that are actually quite engaging. Not only that, but with two actors like Samuel Jackson and Dominic Cooper going at it, it’s easy to be involved in these high-stakes moments, especially the climax.
While Cooper gives a good performance, the characterization for who he plays is extremely weak. The script written by Peter Dowling really paints this character as the most standard and generic protagonist. He is a family man, he is a successful lawyer; that is about it. Cooper’s character along with the rest of the other characters in the screenplay have no personality or character to make them standout. Instead, they are just kind of stereotypes.
For the most part, this movie feels very cheap. While director Peter Howitt does have his fair share of well-executed scenes, he largely directs this as a TV movie that would be on at midnight. The look of the movie is very pale, and a great deal of the scenes are just shot and composed in a very vanilla way. It’s almost like watching an episode of NCIS, and not even a very good one.
While watching this movie, it seemed as it was often indecisive on what it wanted to be. Early on it really established itself as a legal thriller, but then really shifts gears into a more standard-issue action type thriller, without any rhyme or reason. Dowling’s script should have established a direction from the start, because it makes Reasonable Doubt a hodgepodge at times.
Samuel Jackson here really has nothing to do here, and it shows. Instead of relishing the opportunity of having one of the most expressive actors in the industry, Howlitt directs Jackson in a way in which he is just very quiet and stays to himself. That seems like the biggest waste of Jackson’s talents, especially in a thriller like this. Instead of being able to really express himself or play in his strengths, he is stuck with one of the most dull roles he has had in quite some time.
Reasonable Doubt’s most criminal flaw is that it really does not make the effort to be any better than the standard issue thriller. The film just feels content to follow many generic tropes of the genre, and doing such in a very standard way. It is evident that both the director and scribe here just did not care that much about the project at hand, as they don’t put in that extra effort to make this something new or special.
Not only is the film lazy, it’s no fun at all to watch. It’s obviously that a thriller is going for entertainment value, considering that it has no deeper message to it, but it can’t even get that right. Reasonable Doubt is just so dull, which makes it one of the more forgettable watches of recent memory.
Reasonable Doubt is another lackluster January release that is lazy and dull to its core. Dominic Cooper and Samuel Jackson surely give a good effort here, but they are wasted by a script that is contrived and direction that is increasingly flat.
Take a Drink: for every bad moment of editing
Take a Drink: during each cliche’d scene
Do a Shot: for each stupid moment in the film