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Benefit of the Doubt(1993)
No synopsis for Benefit of the Doubt.
For more about Benefit of the Doubt and the Benefit of the Doubt Blu-ray release, see Benefit of the Doubt Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 6, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Amy Irving, Donald Sutherland, Rider Strong
Director: Jonathan Heap
» See full cast & crew
Benefit of the Doubt Blu-ray Review
No doubt about it: this movie is lame.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 6, 2013
Daddy won't forget this.
A daughter in danger. A father out for revenge. A son and a lover caught in the crossfire. Cue the "duh-duh-dum!" music. Benefit of the Doubt largely epitomizes throwaway cinema. It's a film with precious little dramatic worth, only scattered entertainment value, and zero novelty. It's as predictably dull and straightforward as movies come, an experience that's not necessarily insulting -- it's competently made through and through, at least -- but certainly not really worth one's time or effort.
Frank Braswell (Donald Sutherland) has just been released from prison on parole, having served more than two-thirds of a thirty-year sentence earned for his alleged involvement in the murder of his wife. He left behind a young daughter at the time of his incarceration and, before beginning his sentence, whispered to her a potentially chilling comment: "Daddy won't forget this." Now, two decades later, his daughter Karen (Amy Irving) is barely making ends meet waitressing at a topless bar. She has a young son named Pete (Rider Strong) and is in a serious, loving relationship with Dan (Christopher McDonald). When she receives word of her father's early release, she panics. He comes around, she tries to avoid him. Over time, however, Frank snakes his way back into her life, convincing her that daddy isn't the monster he's been made out to be. He befriends Dan and grows on Pete, but is Frank really a reformed man, or does he have something more devious in mind for his family and those closest to his daughter?
Benefit of the Doubt is one of those movies that's so terribly straightforward, completely unimaginative, and dramatically vacuous that it nearly defies the review process. It goes through the exact motions that would be set forth in the "Generic Thriller 101" handbook if such a thing existed, a movie made of the simplest of processes and with the most easily assembled pieces. The picture does work in a surprisingly devious, inhuman sort of revelation that manages to temporarily up the proverbial ante a few notches, making Karen's fears and ultimate flight from her father a little more urgent, but the rest of the movie is so terribly formulaic that the effect is nearly lost in the greater scheme of things. Beyond said revelation, the characters are terribly one dimensional and not the sort that audiences will actively care about beyond the basic humanity of cheering on their survival, yet even then it's ridiculously easy to predict which characters will be killed off by the end.
At least the performances are fair. Benefit of the Doubt doesn't even ask its actors to break a sweat; this must be the acting equivalent of remembering to breathe. There's no effort and no challenge but the task is performed adequately given the requirements every time. Donald Sutherland is never really all that vicious in his role. Dislikable, yes, despicable, most definitely as the story progresses, but not really all that evil and without much of an angle beyond that he's just a psychopath with some sick likes and no moral qualms about killing anyone who dares stand in his way. The part asks little of him and he gives little to it, just enough to paint a superficial portrait of the character. Amy Irving, likewise, proves capable of playing the frightened mother who has lived a hard life, a life that shows on her face and body and through her attitude all. Like Sutherland's character, her Karen is given precious little beyond the surface with which to work, but she carries the character through both the dramatic and action-oriented scenes well enough. Of course, ditto all of that all the way around for Rider Strong, Christopher McDonald, and Graham Greene, all of whom show up and play their parts to satisfaction within the limited parameters provided by the terribly shallow script.
Benefit of the Doubt Blu-ray, Video Quality
Benefit of the Doubt takes on an aggressively sharp appearance, but looks quite nice otherwise. Grain is usually extremely spiky in appearance, resulting in a sometimes overly crisp image, but the plus side is satisfactory detailing across the board. Old beat-up pickup trucks, denim, Arizona's rust-colored rocky landscape as seen predominantly in the film's final act, and facial textures often look film complex and pure. Colors are fair, even and balanced and, while not quite as naturally brilliant as they might otherwise be, there's an unmissable upper end quality to the entire palette. However, black levels do fluctuate around a bit, looking both lightly pale and slightly too dark in spots. Flesh tones, however, never drift too warm. There are some minor edge halos but very little in the way of excess banding, blockiness, or noise. Overall, and despite the very sharp appearance, this is a pretty strong transfer from Echo Bridge.
Benefit of the Doubt Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Benefit of the Doubt features a satisfactory but hardly invigorating DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 lossless soundtrack. There's just not much going on here. The atmosphere inside Karen's topless bar is quite tame, with little natural ambiance even across the front. The absence of surround channels create a very uneventful sonic environment. Some minor exterior ambience later in the film does prove a little more valuable to the listening experience, and thunder rolls nicely across the front in another scene. However, listeners never get a real sense of the wide-open Arizona outdoors later in the film. The big, heavy whir of machinery at Dan's place of employment does work rather effectively in its scene, but the film's other "big" sound effects -- a few gunshots near the end -- lack any sort of realistic presence or power. The good news is that dialogue plays with a center-focus feel, coming through crisply and intelligibly from start to finish. Overall, this is a workable soundtrack from Echo Bridge.
Benefit of the Doubt Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Echo Bridge Blu-ray release of Benefit of the Doubt contains no supplemental content.
Benefit of the Doubt Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Benefit of the Doubt is one of the most generic, thoughtless, go-nowhere movies audiences are ever likely to come across. It's competently put together and acted as well as the material allows, but movies really don't come any more predictable or straightforward as this. It's a perfect example of throwaway, unimaginative, and linear cinema from its opening moments to its closing shot. Echo Bridge's featureless Blu-ray offers solid video and decent audio. Skip it unless a textbook example of generic Thriller cinema is for some reason required.
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