The Life of David Gale

A Film Review By Jason L. King

Rating:Rated R for violent images, nudity, language and sexuality
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet
Directed By:Alan Parker

Final Grade:

Our world has a tendency for violence. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, since every day the media covers thousands of violent cases all around the world. Since the beginnings of time, governments have relied on the ideals of “an eye for an eye” type of justice, and many men have died for their crimes by the death penalty. In fact during 2001, at least 3,048 prisoners were executed in 31 countries and 5,265 people were sentenced to death in 69 countries, or at least that is what I am told. Now what does this have to do with a movie review you might ask? After all, what kind of movie critic spouts off random critiques of the history of the judicial system, and points out fact about the death penalty? Well, there probably aren’t many critics who do this, but I’m one of them. Rest assured however, my reasons are justified. The Life of David Gale appeared in theaters this week, in the midst of a slew of films that are coming out during “Hollywood’s down-time.” We call this down time February. With Oscar films stealing box office sales, Hollywood dumps a lot of their excess films on the public for hopes of some successes. Most of them never amount to anything, some do. The Life of David Gale, is the latest Kevin Spacey project, as he plays former Professor and Death Penalty Abolitionist, David Gale. Gale is convicted of murder, and finds himself on Death Row for a crime that he says he didn’t commit. In order to prove his innocence days before his scheduled execution he looks for help by telling his story to journalist Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) in hopes that she will uncover the truth.

The reason The Life of David Gale is as good as it is, is solely based on the acting alone. I don’t really feel I need to justify this claim, since a lot of people think Spacey is brilliant after seeing American Beauty. Spacey has true talent, like him or not, and is a force to reckoned with in the Hollywood Scene. His soothing harmless sounding voice, smile and just overall completely harmless boyish charm that brings something great to the screen. There is no doubt in my mind that Spacey has proven himself as an actor, and I love watching him on the big screen. Make no mistake; he is a joy to watch in this one as well despite the films flaws. Spacey’s co-star Kate Winslet also does a great job in her role as well, and her performance although it is easily shadowed by Spacey is still an incredible job for the material she had to work with.

The problem with The Life of David Gale is it tried to be more than it really should have been. The film tried to make this bold morality statement about the chance that the death penalty is killing the innocent, but frankly it just didn’t fly with me. Gale’s story seemed more like a fabrication than the truth, and it tried to be a movie death penalty abolitionist would have been going crazy over. But in the final turn of events, the movie takes a new direction that I felt overall detracted from the effectiveness they were trying to get at. The film reminds me a lot of last year’s box office flop John Q where they want you to question is it morally right to endanger others in order to fight back against the system? Unfortunately just like John Q this film missed the mark as well, and failed to sway me either way on its ambitious political agenda.

As a film alone, I can honestly say I enjoyed The Life of David Gale. It kept me entertained for the two hours I spent at the box office, and it made me think a little more about our nation’s history of violence, and my own views on the death penalty. But all in all, the movie didn’t really move me, didn’t sway me in any direction, and didn’t change my perspective on the death penalty whatsoever. Instead it lingered in my head for a bit, and then just like the film soon will be it is easily forgotten. Some day we as Americans may have to face the death penalty issue, but it won’t be because of anything we see in this film. The debate for the death penalty will race on for years to come, but as for The Life of David Gale, it won’t spark much debate at all, and instead will sit on rental shelves just like a murderer on death row and eventually will be forgotten.

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