The great film-noir actors, like Robert Mitchum and Sterling Hayden, wore a scowl of hunger that gave them a low-down, predatory glamour. They were men, not boys. But Jesse Metcalfe, who stars in Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, a remake of the 1956 noir classic, has about as much inner darkness as a puppy. Metcalfe, formerly of Desperate Housewives, is swarthy and handsome in a cloying, baby-gigolo way; the only emotion he radiates is eagerness to be liked. He?s certainly plausible as a local TV news reporter looking for a big break. But then he goes after a corrupt district attorney (Michael Douglas) who?s been piling up convictions by planting DNA evidence.
How will Metcalfe expose this scoundrel? By incriminating himself in a homicide, a feat that he accomplishes by collecting fake evidence — a jackknife, athletic shoes matching the imprint left at the scene of the crime — with the eager-beaverness of a kid on a scavenger hunt. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt was written and directed by Peter Hyams (Outland), who brings a touch of neo-’80s, Gee, let’s throw in a car chase! hackery to this pile of contrivances. He squeezes a bit of suspenseful juice out of the old plot, and Douglas makes smarm a chewy pleasure, but this is a noir in search of a hero we can root for because we actually buy what he?s doing. C