No Doubts at All
When a boat magnate is found murdered it is his daughter Angel Harwell (Fairuza Balk) who ends up arrested having been found with blood on her hands and clothes. Lawyer and recovering alcoholic Charley Sloan (Brian Dennehy) finds himself agreeing to represent her when her mother Robin (Bonnie Bedelia), an old flame and now the widow Harwell, shows up in his office. With it being years since Charley saw any major courtroom action he not only has to prove himself as a lawyer but deal with the media show as the DA Mark Evola (Kevin Dunn) sets about portraying him as an unfit, drunk lawyer.
Looking through the cast of "Shadow of a Doubt" there is a lot of people I like such as Brian Dennehy, Bonnie Bedelia and Kevin Dunn and if truth be told it is their names rather than the storyline which drew me to it. And sadly as the story starts to form and the drama unfolds it was the likeability of the stars more than the story that kept me watching.
Part of the trouble with "Shadow of a Doubt" is the simple fact it is over the top from the word go and feels incredibly forced. When Charley walks into his office and finds Robin standing there looking out of his window with a cigarette in hand it is like a femme fatale character from a 1940s film-noir has been dumped into a 90s movie. And of course as an old flame the expected scenes surrounding the spark between them appear but are so ridiculously over the top with one culminating with a romp on a desk near the chalk outline of her dead husband being so bad it is laughable.
But then we also have the trouble that here we have a court case which is supposedly about Charley trying to get Angel off but then ends up all about the character of Charley, his almost arrogance in court whilst also the DA's defamation of character as he makes out he is an unfit lawyer. Of course you wonder whether being a drunk means he is also a patsy in all this. Now in fairness there is nothing wrong about a bit of lawyer showboating, in fact the best courtroom movies tend to have some sort of showboating in them but "Shadow of a Doubt" feels like it is only about the showboating with the actual crime story being less important.
The knock on effect of "Shadow of a Doubt" being all about the showboating in the courtroom it ends up all feeling a little over the top from the actors. In truth Brian Dennehy who had a hand in writing this as well as directing it is at fault as scene after scene his performance over whelms it. It is the same with Bonnie Bedelia who as I said looks and acts like a dame lifted from a 1940s film-noir. The one performance which feels almost right is that from Fairuza Balk as whilst occasionally over the top doesn't dominate scenes like the others.
What this all boils down to is that "Shadow of a Doubt" ends up entertaining but in a bit of a bad movie way due to the over the top performances and a variety of forced scenes. But for fans of Brian Dennehy there is some entertainment from watching him as a showboating lawyer.