Review: Jack Foley | Rating:
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 Winslets 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 Gales 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 mans
Parkers 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
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
The revelations, too, are badly handled, to the detriment of
Winslets character, which reduce her inquisitive hack to
a tearful wreck with all the solving ability of a member of Scooby
Doos Mystery Inc gang. (Audiences will no doubt be laughing,
when they really ought to be gasping with shock).
And Parkers 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 thats what theyre into.
But in terms of provoking any serious debate, Parkers 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.