If your life were to end today, would it be enough?
Beyond Suspicion is a suspenseful drama from first time feature director Matthew Tabak. Originally made with the title "Auggie Rose," Beyond Suspicion was released to only a handful of theaters, ignored by moviegoers, then released on DVD by Fox Home Entertainment. Starring the talents of Jeff "Mr. Awkward" Goldblum (David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly, Jurassic Park, Independence Day) and Anne "I dated Ellen for fifteen minutes" Heche (Volcano, Six Days, Seven Nights), Beyond Suspicion's major crime is it's deceptive marketing strategy.
Facts of the Case
John Nolan, Jr. (Goldblum) lives a pretty good life. He sells life insurance for an established firm, has acquired expensive necessities, and lives with his beautiful girlfriend (Nancy Travis, Greedy). One night while buying a bottle of wine at a local deli/liquor store, John is caught in an armed robbery. The gunman enters nervously, throws John to the ground, and before rushing out shoots the newly hired stock clerk, Auggie Rose (Kim Coates). As Auggie lies dying on the ground, John rushes to his side to help him. Auggie and John ride together in the back of an ambulance, and in Auggie's last living moments he and John seem to share a connection. Sing it with me folks…love is in the air…
John is shocked and confused by what has happened. He goes to the police and finds that Auggie was an ex-con, just recently released from a twenty-year prison sentence for armed robbery. No friends, relatives or next of kin was found. This being the case, the authorities decide to discard Auggie's remains without a ceremonial funeral. John is so dumbfounded by this lack of sympathy that he decides to try and find someone who is connected to Auggie's past.
By posing as Auggie's brother John is able to get the keys to Auggie's ramshackle apartment (a place where even cockroaches dare to live). There he finds small clues to Auggie's past, including some letters from Lucy Brown (Heche), a girl that Auggie had been writing to while in jail. In just a few days Auggie and Lucy were to meet at a local bus station. John decides that he should be the one to meet and break the news to her of Auggie's death.
At the bus station, John has every inclination to inform Lucy about Auggie's passing—but something stops him. Instead he assumes the role of Auggie Rose. This may have something to do with that fact that Lucy is a one sweet hot mama. Soon John is not John anymore, he's Auggie Rose. When a crooked stranger floats into town, John/Auggie finds his new identity in jeopardy, and must explain both his actions and his deception—and risk losing the girl he now loves.
Beyond Suspicion is very poorly marked. By looking at the font of the case—and reading the movie synopsis of the back—you'd think that Beyond Suspicion was something much different than it turns out to be. I was sure that this movie would be a gripping (okay, not gripping…but halfway gripping) murder thriller along the lines of the Fugitive, or something like that. Someone in the marketing department was tellin' a few fibs when they decided to advertise this sucker, as it's mostly a drama with lots and lots of talking. The movie does have its moments, and for a straight-to-video title, this is better than average.
Instead of being much of a thriller, Beyond Suspicion ends up being a character study. Jeff Goldblum plays a man who becomes obsessed with another man's identity, which is an interesting premise. Goldblum excels at playing goofy, twitching characters. In fact, I have the feeling that in real life, Goldblum is a goofy, twitchy fellow. If Goldblum is given nothing else, he's always a joy to watch on screen. He often lifts lesser movies a tad higher than they actually are. Anne Heche fairs well, though her character is very strange. Are we to believe that she's just a naïve girl, or an intelligent woman who just happened to fall for the wrong man? Her character come off as simplistic, though I'm not so sure this was the intention of the writer. As the two main leads, Goldblum and Heche make for a weirdly odd company. The small but effective supporting cast includes an eclectic mix of actors, including Kim Coates (who usually play wackos in such films as Waterworld) and Timothy Olyphant (the whacked out killer in Scream 2). Nancy Travis shows up for a few scenes as John's live-in girlfriend, but her character is sorely wasted. If we'd gotten an idea about John's relationship with her and his home life, maybe the script would have been a bit more plausible. Without these insights there's not enough characterization to make us fully believe in his actions.
Beyond Suspicion is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1. It's sad that in this day and age of DVD some films are still not given an anamorphic transfer, though considering the size of this film that's not very surprising. Colors and flesh tones were bright and clear, blacks solid. There was a bit of edge enhancement spotted, though nothing that should intrude on the enjoyment of the film. Digital artifacting was not spotted, nor was shimmer.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), as well as Dolby Surround 2.0 in English and French. The Dolby 5.1 track is no great shakes, usually stirring up a bit only when Mark Mancina's music score kicks in. Otherwise, Beyond Suspicion is dialogue driven, so an aggressive track is really not needed. Dialogue, music, and effects were all clear. Subtitles in English and Spanish are also available.
Extra features include two separate commentary tracks, one by director/writer Matthew Tabak and actor Jeff Goldblum, the other by Tabak and producer Daniel Stone. Both tracks end up being more on the technical side, and a bit dry. The track with Tabak and Goldblum fairs better, as Goldblum seems to be a bit more at ease talking than Stone does. Tabak often asks Goldblum questions, and Goldblum's responses are often fascinating and humorous.
A few "Behind-The-Scenes Interviews" are included, though they are very short and not very insightful. An "Alternative Ending" is also included, but I found this to be a cheat in some ways (though those who enjoy darker endings might like it). You'll know what I mean when you see it. Finally there are some cast and crew biographies, plus a non-anamorphic theatrical trailer for Beyond Suspicion.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I had a very hard time buying that John would give up his old life to take over Auggie Rose's. It's like the script's character just changed directions midway through, not really giving any rational explanation as to why John wants to become Auggie. I guess it could be that he was unhappy with his old life, though there weren't many signs of that. The story holds together, though was in dire need of a few rewrites. The ending is a bit hokey, but it fits within the context of the film.
Worth a nights rental, Beyond Suspicion will play well to those who enjoy character studies with a few twists and turns in them. The performances are all eloquent, though the script leaves much to be desired. A flawed, if noble endeavor. A pity that Beyond Suspicion wasn't given an anamorphic transfer, but I guess that's sometimes the way of the beast. Decent audio and extras make the disc slightly more than passable.
Beyond Suspicion is free to go, though just barely. Fox is given a light sentence for a non-anamorphic transfer.
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