The Life Of David Gale

Review Date:
Director: Alan Parker
Writer: Charles Randolph
Producers: Alan Parker, Nicolas Cage
Kevin Spacey as David Gale, Kate Winslet as Bitsy Bloom, Laura Linney as Constance Hallaway
A well-reputed professor is sitting in jail five days before he’s to receive a lethal injection to complete his Texan “death sentence”, when a cute New York reporter drops by to write up his story. As their conversations move forward, the woman slowly begins to reflect upon the man’s innocence and a race against the clock ensues.
A decent flick, if I don’t say so myself. This movie involved me in its narrative pretty much the whole way through with an intriguing back-story, well-told flashback sequences, a little bit of suspense, three well-defined characters and a definite political point of view, which in the case of those for/against the death penalty, might skew your view of the film, one way or the other. For me, this was one of those movies that featured a handful of bits that nagged at me, but none enough to overcome the film’s stronger points. One of the film’s slighter drawbacks was its length, which felt a little long in the teeth, especially nearing its unforeseen climax (I thought I had it all figured out about halfway through, but there was more beneath the surface), which had about three different spots during which it seemed to be over. And even though the ending did seem to “bring everything together”, I’m not sure how well it would all stand up if I saw the film again. I personally didn’t nitpick it once all was said and done, and subsequently walked out satisfied. The movie was also a little heavy-handed at times, with its obvious stance on the death penalty, but that didn’t really bother me all that much either, especially since I appreciated its point of view. If politics and capital punishment do keep you awake at nights though, this flick might just get under your skin. Pacing-wise, I liked how everything was set up at first, with Spacey’s character given a true identity and then shown to crumble, as one phony accusation started to cut into, not only his career, but his entire life as well.

Now if there’s anything that I find absolutely beyond deplorable in this world, it is rape, but if there’s something that’s almost as devastating to an innocent, it is someone accusing them of a bogus rape. This film also offered some insight into alcoholism, as well as the true fighting spirit in some. I liked all three of the main characters here as well, and a lot of that can be attributed to the actors playing them, all of whom offered potent characterizations. Linney was especially good while Winslet looked as pretty as ever. On the negative tip, the film also had a number of clichéd moments, most of which thankfully didn’t overtake my overall appreciation of the story. The “car breaking down” sequence was the most idiotic as well as the prerequisite “stranger” following them around the whole time. There were also a couple of “huh?” scenes like when the lead characters were shown nonchalantly hauling a TV set out of a motel room (aren’t those things bolted down?) while the most frustrating movie moment that I’ve seen this year had to be the one in which a character takes “time out” to watch a videotape, instead of rushing to the aid of a man who is set for execution in minutes! I was about this close to standing up in the theater and screaming at the top of my lungs: “Move it, beeyatch, there is a man on death row: get your shit together!!!” But alas, I guess it offered up a little “suspense”, right? The filmmaker also had this annoying habit of splicing inserts into the film with words such as “justice”, “pain”, “desire” on them, all of which were too obvious to be effective. In the end, the film’s far from perfect, but it was entertaining, engaged me throughout and offered up a nice dose of surprise, all of which were more than enough to offset the cost of my admission.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian