20th Century Fox presents
Beyond Suspicion (2000)
"It seems so - unfair. To be discarded and then forgotten. Gosh, I hope that doesn't happen to me."- John C. Nolan (Jeff Goldblum)
Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Anne Heche
Other Stars: Nancy Travis, Timothy Olyphant, Richard T. Jones, Kim Coates
Director: Matthew Tabak
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violence
Run Time: 1h:48m:37s
Release Date: 2001-07-10
Genre: suspense thriller
DVD ReviewBeyond Suspicion is The Passenger for the generation that forgot Antonioni. Jeff Goldblum stars as John C. Nolan, a successful life insurance salesman. While buying a bottle of wine in a liquor store one day, the store is robbed. The robber shoots and kills a store clerk there, by the name of Auggie Rose (Kim Coates). Nolan tries to save Rose, but he can't. John then becomes obsessed with Auggie, abandoning his own life and taking up Auggie's, which includes getting to know his pen-pal girlfriend, Lucy Brown (Anne Heche). But people start to find out about Nolan's deception, and he soon has to face the consequences of his actions.
It's all absurd, if you ask me. Whereas The Passenger was a masterful study on the meaning of identity, Beyond Suspicion is the story of a man in a mid-life crisis. There is no question of identity here. Nolan simply sees Auggie's life, likes it, and tosses away his own. In the commentary, the director says that Nolan is going through an existential crisis. That's crap, pure and simple. If someone were to have an existential crisis, they would examine their life and change what they felt was wrong with it. They would not pretend to be someone else, as that would trigger its own separate existential crisis. No mature person would do what John C. Nolan does, so what we're watching is pure folly.
Matthew Tabak said it took five years to get the movie made. He said this was because he wanted to keep the movie low budget, and most major studios wanted him to raise the stakes. Now, I am the last person to agree with a large studio that simply wants to make more money off of mass audiences, but, Beyond Suspicion is in no way art, so I actually agree with the big studios. Since the premise is so stupid, and the emotions are so paper thin, we need higher stakes just to keep us interested. The big threat in the film is that some low life crook will tell Lucy that Nolan isn't Auggie. Oh no! Considering that Nolan shouldn't pretend to be Auggie in the first place, I wanted the crook to tell Lucy.
The one saving grace in this movie are the performances. While nowhere near the best performances you will see by any of these actors, they all give performances good enough to keep interest. Jeff Goldblum is, well, Jeff Goldblum, but for some reason I don't get tired of watching Goldblum play himself over and over. Odd. Anne Heche is the best as Lucy. She actually creates a believable character, and I felt truly sad for her, and somewhat mad at Nolan, for leading her on. Joe Santos is delightful as an ex-prize fighter who now spends his time watering his plants. Nancy Travis is good in her four scenes as Nolan's boyfriend. She probably could have been used more. The weak link here is Timothy Olyphant as Roy Mason, the aforementioned low life crook. Olyphant's acting is solely one-dimensional. He's supposed to be threatening, but he comes off as full of himself. Still, Olyphant was good for an unintentional laugh, so he wasn't a total waste.
Matthew Tabak's (writer/director) screenplay is ridiculousˇa piece of trash, in my opinion. How it attracted any big name actors is beyond me. The dialogue isn't inspirational either. At one point, Nolan says, "I'm a life insurance salesman. I bamboozle people." No, Matthew, tell us how you really feel. How ham-handed is that? Not all of the dialogue is that bad, but it gets there sometimes. Tabak fares better as a director, because as opposed to some directors, whose style can induce seizures, Tabak is much more laid back. However, he's so laid back that he seems to have no sense of personal style whatsoever. A few flashbacks tinted blue hint at something approaching style, but it's not like flashbacks haven't been done before. I'll say this, Tabak's direction didn't annoy me, which is more than I can say about his screenplay.
Although I'm bashing the film, realize that it's not as bad as I make it sound. This film is really just a middling film. Sure, there's not much good about it, but there's nothing truly atrocious. Yes, the premise and Nolan's character motivations are very, very bad, but I've seen worse. What we have here is a forgettable movie. The only reason anyone would see it would be because they see Jeff Goldblum's and Anne Heche's names on the case and pick it up out of curiosity. I can't recommend this movie, but I can't really trash it either. But please, Matt Tabak, don't write any more scripts. I beg you.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: D
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Since this is from 2000, you'd think they'd be able to find a clean print. Not so! While not covered in dust, there are plenty of noticeable specks that flicker by for the majority of the picture. White dots, big black circles, things of that sort. They don't appear all the time, but that makes them all the more noticeable when they do appear. In keeping with Tabak's lack of personal style, there is no complex color palette for the transfer to deal with, and when it isn't dirty, it looks just fine. I would go so far to say that the transfer looked a bit muted, but just a bit. But what I find really inexplicable is that this transfer is not anamorphically enhanced. There is no excuse for a movie, especially such a recent one, to not be anamorphically enhanced.
Image Transfer Grade: B
|DS 2.0||English, French||yes|
Audio Transfer Review: Well, this isn't the worst 5.1 mix I've ever heard. It's not the best, but, then again, not many are. This is a good mix in the sense that dialogue is clear and grounded, and there's no hissing. It's bad in the sense that I don't even remember hearing ambient effects, and the rear speakers are hardly used. What this mix does have, however, is a very nice, powerful, low bass end. I find so many mixes are marred when they do not take full advantage of the subwoofer, but luckily that isn't a problem in this case.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Alternate Endings
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Matthew Tabak, Producer Daniel Stone, Jeff Goldblum
Layers Switch: Unknown
Extras Review: For such a silly, little noticed film, Fox actually lavished a lot of attention on this disc in terms of extras. We get 3 minutes of behind-the-scenes interviews; the same studio fluff you see over and over. Some pretty good cast and crew biographies, a trailer, an alternate ending, and two commentaries. The alternate ending does not add any footage or have different footage from the final ending; rather, it ends at an earlier point. I actually think the alternate ending is better than the ending in the finished film, further proving that Matthew Tabak can't tell a good story to save his life.
Let me warn you about the commentaries: Matthew Tabak is on both. I generally find that having the same person on more than one commentary for one movie is a bad idea, as that person tends to say the same things on each commentary they contribute to. The first commentary is embarrassingly bad. Matt Tabak shares the microphone with producer Daniel Stone. This commentary is very dry. Neither of them have anything interesting to say. In fact, they go beyond having nothing interesting to say. All they do is praise everyone who worked on the film to the high heavens. At one point, the camera cuts to a clock, and Tabak expresses his admiration for the editor, whose idea it was to cut to the clock. Tabak and Stone are so proud of their movie that I had to laugh. Listening to Tabak talk proves to me that his screenplay wasn't a mistake; he really has no intellect.
On the second commentary, Jeff Goldblum joins Tabak. This commentary is actually interesting, as Goldblum dominates most of it. Tabak acts like a moderator, prodding Goldblum, asking questions, etc. The few comments he makes we already heard on the first commentary, confirming my fears about having the same person on both commentaries. In the end, however, the Goldblum commentary is far more interesting than the movie itself. Not good enough to make this disc worth a purchase, but interesting enough to make me say something positive about it.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsThis is a boring, forgettable movie. Not truly bad, but not good in any way. Skip it.
Daniel Hirshleifer 2001-07-05