A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"Benefit of the Doubt" blows a lot of its suspense in the opening title sequence, as we hear Donald Sutherland testifying before a parole board, "The strength of this country lies in the strength of its families." Since the movie is billed as a thriller, and since his voice sounds sanctimonious but hollow, we know at once he's not sincere; almost before we see him, we know he's the movie's bad guy.
Too bad, because a more interesting movie might have resulted if one of the screenplay's unrealized ideas had been used. That's the possibility that the Sutherland character might, in fact, be innocent. As we meet him, he's being released on parole after serving a 22-year sentence for murdering his wife. The key testimony against him at the trial came from his daughter (Amy Irving), then a child, now a single mom working as a waitress in a strip club.
Did Irving tell the truth in her testimony? The movie tries to build up evidence that she might have been "guided" by a defense attorney. Now, with Sutherland out and headed her way, she's in terror that he might strike again.
"I won't forget this," he told her as he was led off to prison.