Review: ‘Nbc Sunday Night at the Movies Shadow of a Doubt’

Filmed in British Columbia, Canada, by Michele Brustin Prods. in association with Scripps Howard Entertainment. Executive producers, Brian Dennehy, David Percelay, Michele Brustin; co-executive producer/producer, Richard Brams; director, Dennehy; writers, Dennehy, Bill Phillips, based on the novel by William J. Coughlin; camera, Neil Roach; editor, Doug Ibold; sound, Martin Fossum; production designer, Jillian Scott; music, Jane Ira Bloom. *TX:Cast: Brain Dennehy, Bonnie Bedelia, Fairuza Balk, Mike Nussbaum, Joe Grifasi, Michael Macrea, Kevin Dunn, Ken Pogue, Donnelly Rhodes, Brent Jennings, Bruce McGill, Don S. Davis, Fulvio Cecere, Robert Clothier, Walter Marsh, Donal MacKay, Jennifer Copping. This whodunit aches to mine the film noir vein, with hard-boiled characters and mysterious ladies, but drowns in cliches and a plot that's either muddy or too simplistic. Despite a riveting perf by Fairuza Balk, "Shadow" falls short of being a stylized, satisfying murder mystery. But when an old flame, Robin Harwell (Bonnie Bedelia), hires him to defend her stepdaughter, Angel (Balk), who's accused of murdering her wealthy father, Charlie sees the opportunity for a comeback and takes the case.

Filmed in British Columbia, Canada, by Michele Brustin Prods. in association with Scripps Howard Entertainment. Executive producers, Brian Dennehy, David Percelay, Michele Brustin; co-executive producer/producer, Richard Brams; director, Dennehy; writers, Dennehy, Bill Phillips, based on the novel by William J. Coughlin; camera, Neil Roach; editor, Doug Ibold; sound, Martin Fossum; production designer, Jillian Scott; music, Jane Ira Bloom. *TX:Cast: Brain Dennehy, Bonnie Bedelia, Fairuza Balk, Mike Nussbaum, Joe Grifasi, Michael Macrea, Kevin Dunn, Ken Pogue, Donnelly Rhodes, Brent Jennings, Bruce McGill, Don S. Davis, Fulvio Cecere, Robert Clothier, Walter Marsh, Donal MacKay, Jennifer Copping. This whodunit aches to mine the film noir vein, with hard-boiled characters and mysterious ladies, but drowns in cliches and a plot that’s either muddy or too simplistic. Despite a riveting perf by Fairuza Balk, “Shadow” falls short of being a stylized, satisfying murder mystery. But when an old flame, Robin Harwell (Bonnie Bedelia), hires him to defend her stepdaughter, Angel (Balk), who’s accused of murdering her wealthy father, Charlie sees the opportunity for a comeback and takes the case.

As he digs deeper into the mother-stepdaughter relationship and the circumstances of the killing, Charlie gets sucked in by the charms of the women; their manipulation almost drives him to drink. Angel proclaims her innocence; is she lying? Is Robin lying? As Charlie unravels the plot, more mysteries are revealed, but it’s a tangled web that offers no satisfying conclusion or clear character motivation.

Dennehy turns in a fine perf as Charlie, and is believable as a recovering alcoholic, but Balk, batting her huge eyes and coming off like a mini Lana Turner with her platinum hair, is the telepic’s saving grace as she both seduces the audience and turns on the innocent charm when it’s necessary. Bedelia is almost silly as the hardened femme fatale widow, with her ’40s hairdos and clipped line delivery.

Tech credits are OK.

Nbc Sunday Night at the Movies Shadow of a Doubt

(Sun. (3), 9-11 p.m., NBC) *

Production

Brian Dennehy, who directed, co-wrote and co-exec produced the telepic, is Charlie Sloan, once a top criminal lawyer who ruined his career with booze. Now a recovering alcoholic, Charlie still practices law -- infrequently.
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