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The Life of David Gale (15)



Review: Jack Foley | Rating: 1

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by Alan Parker; Deleted scenes with optional director's commentary; Making of; The Music of David Gale; Death In Texas; Alternative poster concepts; Trailers; DVD-ROM features; Regions 2/4.

ALAN Parker has directed some really taut thrillers in his time, such as Angel Heart and Mississippi Burning, so the prospect of a hard-hitting Death Row drama starring Oscar winner, Kevin Spacey, ought to seem like essential viewing.

Sadly, The Life of David Gale fails to continue the trend, emerging as an engaging, but ultimately disappointing race-against-time movie, which largely squanders the efforts of an impressive cast and promising scenario.

The film begins strongly, as Kate Winslet’s no-nonsense reporter, Bitsey Bloom, travels to Death Row to interview inmate, David Gale (Spacey), about the events which brought him to the point of execution.

With just three days to go, the story of Gale’s fall from grace is then related, via flashback, as Bitsey uncovers how a brilliant family man went from being a leading anti-capital punishment campaigner to a drunken adulterer, who murdered his best friend and fellow activist, Constance Harraway (Laura Linney).

At first sceptical, as all good journalists should be, Bitsey and trainee reporter, Zack Stemmons (Gabriel Mann), then begin to find discrepancies in the case against Gale, only to realise that the clock is ticking down on a potentially innocent man’s life.

Parker’s film, while certainly watchable, eventually buckles under the weight of its own intelligence. It thrives on its ability to throw red herrings but thinks it is more clever than it actually is, and is nothing like the message movie it so clearly wants to be.

For starters, it suffers from a chronic lack of subtlety, frequently spelling things out for the audience when it really ought to be making them work, while the flashbacks, in particular, are accompanied by some truly shocking editing, which lend proceedings a curiously tacky feel.

The revelations, too, are badly handled, to the detriment of Winslet’s character, which reduce her inquisitive hack to a tearful wreck with all the solving ability of a member of Scooby Doo’s Mystery Inc gang. (Audiences will no doubt be laughing, when they really ought to be gasping with shock).

And Parker’s attempts to remain hard-hitting flounder amidst the stupidity of proceedings, delivering a slap to the face of audiences, rather than the intended knockout blow.

On the plus side, the likes of Spacey, Linney, Mann and co turn in decent performances, helping to lend weight to a fairly flimsy story, while there are enough twists and turns to keep audiences guessing - if that’s what they’re into.

But in terms of provoking any serious debate, Parker’s latest is found to be seriously wanting and only the relative novice will draw any satisfaction from the supposedly shocking denouement. This is a major waste of talent.

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