It would ordinarily seem foolish to remake any Fritz Lang film, but the German director’s 1956 courtroom noir actually had room for improvement—if only because of screenwriter Douglas Morrow’s laughable twists and underdeveloped death-penalty debate. Peter Hyams’s generically shot, impatiently edited update proves foolish anyway, by removing the social issues entirely and repeating enough of its precursor’s fundamental flaws to earn the title Beyond a Reasonable Plot.
Pulitzer-hungry journalist C.J. Nicholas (Metcalfe, all smirk and little charm) has an inexplicable hunch that Louisiana DA and gubernatorial wanna-be Martin Hunter (Douglas) is tampering with DNA evidence to score a perfect conviction record. Shackled by banal assignments, C.J. secretly ropes an office buddy into an all-or-nothing scheme: He’ll implicate himself as a murder suspect, wait until Hunter defrauds the system again, then come clean with photographic proof of his innocence. The scam is so crazy, it just might work…for a throwaway episode of Law & Order. The reporter also begins a convenient affair with Hunter’s sexy underling (Tamblyn), serving no purpose other than to offer one last gratuitous aha in the epilogue. Any amateur magician can successfully yank the tablecloth away, but it’s only impressive if there’s something of value on the table.