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Beyond Suspicion

Beyond Suspicion is the sort of film that feels like it should work better than it does. Although there are moments of genuine drama and tension contained in this tale of stolen identity and mid-life crisis, the movie lacks the ability to ensnare its viewers. A mediocre storyline, coupled with a disastrous marketing campaign by Fox, have ensured that this film will be seen by few and enjoyed by less. Tragic indeed, considering that Beyond Suspicion also boasts one of the finest performances of Jeff Goldblum's checkered career. Goldblum stars as John Nolan, a middle-aged insurance salesman whose life seems to be charmed: not only is business succeeding beyond his wildest dreams, but his relationship with his lovely girlfriend Carol (Nancy Travis), with whom Nolan has lived for six years, couldn't be better. Nolan's luck changes, however, when he witnesses the murder of a store clerk, an ex-con named Auggie Rose (Kim Coates) during a bungled robbery attempt. Nolan, who provides comfort to the dying man in his last moments, soon finds himself obsessed with learning everything he possibly can about the enigmatic Rose — even sacrificing his own identity in the process. Auggie Rose, as it turns out, had no family or close friends — no one mourns him, and indeed, no one other than Nolan even attends the funeral. But while searching through Rose's belongings, Nolan happens upon a stack of letters from one Lucy Brown (Anne Heche), a woman who wrote to Rose in prison. The two had been just about to meet, and Nolan keeps the appointment, intending only to break the news of Auggie's death to her. But Nolan soon falls under Lucy's spell, and opts to "become" Rose for her — sacrificing his old life and girlfriend in the process. Goldblum masterfully dominates the screen in this challenging role, conveying Nolan's passion for everything he does, from his job selling insurance (witness his hardball pitch in one of the film's early scenes) to his growing sense of moral ambiguity, seen later in the story. Nolan's reasons for adopting Rose's identity are never clearly explained (let's get real: Lucy's good looks can only count for so much), but this is one of the movie's strengths — unlike in traditional Hollywood movies, people don't always make sense, and Nolan's quirkiness is precisely what make him such an interesting character. Goldblum hands in a performance so strong that not even the presence of Anne Heche, who is clearly sleepwalking through her role as Lucy, can derail it. Although Beyond Suspicion is neither great or particularly original, it's not without merit, and certainly deserves better than the total indifference it has received thusfar, courtesy of Fox's half-hearted attempt to market it. Originally christened Auggie Rose, the movie was retitled by the studio prior to release because the original moniker didn't seem "exciting enough." Unfortunately, the DVD packaging, along with the film's generic new name, implies that Beyond Suspicion is an action-packed thriller (Anne Heche boldly brandishes a handgun on the back of the box, and there are lots of pictures of a tough-looking Jeff Goldblum staring moodily into the camera). This does nothing but ensure that (a) viewers who rent it expecting gunfights and explosions will be disappointed; and (b) viewers looking for a character study/drama will avoid it altogether. Not exactly the best way to build positive word-of-mouth. Nonetheless, Fox has bestowed a generous amount of bonus features on Beyond Suspicion, including a theatrical trailer, behind-the-scenes interviews with all the principals, an alternate ending, cast and crew biographies, and two audio commentary tracks, both featuring writer/director Matthew Tabak (in the first, he shares yakking duties with producer Daniel Stone; in the second he blabs with star Jeff Goldblum. There's a fair amount of redundant information contained here, but hearing these same stories from differing perspectives is sometimes interesting). The film is presented in a (surprisingly non-anamorphic) widescreen transfer (1.85:1), with optional English and Spanish subtitles. Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) and Dolby Stereo (French). Keep-case.
—Joe Barlow

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