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Overall Rating
2.93

Awesome: 20%
Worth A Look: 23.16%
Average: 7.37%
Pretty Bad28.42%
Total Crap: 21.05%

6 reviews, 59 user ratings


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Life of David Gale, The
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by The Ultimate Dancing Machine

"Dead Man Talking"
4 stars

A slick and compulsively watchable thriller, THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE aspires to rise above mere nail-biting manipulation. This is Hollywood’s latest broadside against the death penalty, and though it ultimately fails in its goal to make an irrefutable political statement, it’s a respectable effort.

The political bits are less memorable than the suspense elements. The film runs on two parallel tracks: the first is anti-death penalty diatribe; the second is the race-against-time plot that eventually overtakes it. Kevin Spacey plays David Gale, a brilliant professor noted for his very public opposition to state-sanctioned execution. He’s something of a sophist addicted to his own wit; he’s smart and he knows it; he’s an able Lacan-quoting debater who can easily dismantle his opponents—and often does. His outspoken views have earned him numerous enemies in Texas, where he lives and works. But his career and his life disintegrate when he’s convicted of the rape-murder of a close associate. Now only days away from lethal injection, he’s decided to spill his life story to a female reporter (Holy Hannibal Lecter, Batman!), who soon finds that there’s much more to the story than anyone suspects.

It’s clear from the get-go where director Alan Parker’s political sympathies lie, not to mention those of screenwriter Charles Randolph, who demonstrates an alarming tendency to make his characters recite statistics disproving the efficacy of the death penalty. His script is full of echoes—aside from the Silence of the Lambs-like framework, he apparently ripped off an early joke scene (about a cute female student who will do “anything” for a passing grade) from Trevanian’s The Eiger Sanction. That’s where I first read it, anyhow. Still, he has a fine sense of structure. Though some of the parts seem rickety, the whole stands up well.

For what it’s worth, I tend to agree with the views of the creative team, though I still got that sinking feeling early on as DAVID GALE threatened to veer into ham-fisted pontificating. (Also ham-fisted characterization, I though we were in real trouble when a cowboy-hatted redneck—Hollywood’s favorite right-wing stereotype—begins stalking Winslet.)

But Parker manages to surprise us a good amount of the time. The film’s twists and turns, which are largely played out in flashbacks, are sometimes predictable, sometimes not—but Parker displays such an excellent sense of pacing that the dopey parts (one car chase ends when a train conveniently separates pursuer and pursued) carry less weight than they might have. Even when the film isn’t convincing, even when the overly arch dialogue creates the wrong kind of nerve-grating sensations, he keeps the engine running. The result is an absorbing, well-made Chinese box of a thriller. You can forgive some of the contrivances simply because Parker takes us into territory—the whodunit—that can accommodate “heightened” realism.

The actors acquit themselves well, with Spacey in particular standing out as the articulate convict. He makes Gale seem too vulnerable to be altogether convincing as a murderer, but just out-of-control enough to put doubts in your mind about that.

Popular reception of THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE will probably center on its political angle, which is, as I’ve said, somewhat dubious if well intentioned. What lingers in the mind is a well-oiled mystery—with a jolting final twist. Wait for it.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=7051&reviewer=223
originally posted: 02/14/03 19:17:56
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User Comments

3/25/10 Dane Youssef Something about the whole product feel episodic and unfinished. Final twist ruins the movie 2 stars
7/11/07 fools♫gold Eh, percentages and "whatever" rates are all conspicuous lies. Oops!!! 5 stars
2/19/06 Chris Smith Those states w/o the death penalty had a lower murder rate BEFORE they stopped it! Oops!!! 2 stars
2/19/06 Chris Bordeman All they even prove is it's easy to frame yourself if you really want to. Whooptey doo!! 2 stars
10/27/05 LINDA GARZA IT WAS AN AWESOME MOVIE WRITER HAS ALOT OF TALENT 5 stars
5/23/05 theo stevens histionic but excellent portrayal of anti-death penalty fanatics 3 stars
4/02/05 Cynthia Willingham Easy to figure out, not believable at all 3 stars
3/24/05 Helen Bradley Great acting by Spacey and Winslet great script a thriller suprise ending 5 stars
12/04/04 Sam Worth while watching. give lots of facts and how a girl tries hard to saves david's life. 4 stars
10/28/04 Daveman This film is all over the place, needlessly didactic and hilariously overblown. 1 stars
10/11/04 Cinnamon There were parts of the movie that seemed boring, but the story had a good twist at the end 4 stars
7/16/04 nsb i loved this movie. thought it was very good. 5 stars
3/21/04 Pat ending was strange 3 stars
3/10/04 bsho76 Very unique film, keeps you guessing... 4 stars
2/12/04 Thomas Weiler One of my favorites 5 stars
12/16/03 marvin sucks 2 stars
11/03/03 Michele Darcis worthwhile seeing, keeps you guessing 4 stars
10/17/03 Lee Aclaimed Bad on so many levels; and why the numerous scenes of cars driving down the road? 1 stars
9/30/03 keshia king this movie is cool, and there are a lot of things that you don't think will happen but do.. 5 stars
9/27/03 Kimberly Jacobs I totally disagree with this EFC review. ONE OF THE BEST MOVIES I HAVE SEEN LATELY! 5 stars
9/21/03 Flick Chick anything with kevin spacey is good. 4 stars
9/21/03 Darryl Spacey is great, as always. And the plot twist will blow you away! 5 stars
9/19/03 Jinnvisible Good plot , alas actors, straining to poo the emotion ,Steven Spielturd?emotional overdrive 4 stars
9/14/03 Kyle I thought it was an above-average suspense movie. I didn't get bored at all. 4 stars
8/29/03 Ben J. Doko It might help each States to review their capital punishment law. 4 stars
8/26/03 mark thomas it SUCKS! 1 stars
8/25/03 JUN Story to be too thin and predictable 2 stars
8/18/03 Alberto Well i thought the movie was great. 5 stars
8/14/03 Jeannie Karlsen This movie left me in tears. Excellent in every way. 5 stars
8/05/03 Piz Well-played thriller that did seem far-fetched. Had potential to be a tense nailbiter 4 stars
8/02/03 Matt Helm The trailer convinced me not to see it ... ever. So does this count? 1 stars
8/01/03 Doc Shock Predictable. 2 stars
7/24/03 Kecia good movie,but what happened to him was wrong. 4 stars
6/06/03 Brendan L I guessed the ending after fifteen minutes, got to love that!! 3 stars
5/20/03 Shadaan Felfeli Good performances.At times the story seems unnecessarily convoluted. Definately worthwhile. 4 stars
5/20/03 your worse goddamn nightmare The plot was pretty good. To I wish the flick had some competant cinematographer... ... ... 4 stars
4/17/03 Hussain Dada Amazing movie, but appears more fictitious than a true life story. 4 stars
4/10/03 Natalie Stonecipher (aka anti-anti-missile missile missile) Killing to show that killing to show that killing is wrong is wrong is wrong! 1 stars
4/09/03 Tiffany Thunderhurst Looks awesome until too many twists involute it into farcedom. 3 stars
3/11/03 Bentley Clark Let go of the politics and enjoy the mystery!! 4 stars
3/11/03 Krista Ann Amazing movie. Must see! 5 stars
3/10/03 andrew j saw it with three adults could not follow the movie slow wait for tv showing 2 stars
3/04/03 Nancy N. insults the intelligence (and the ethics) of the anti-death penalty group 2 stars
3/02/03 Jack Sommersby Spacey is outstanding; the film is simply ludicrous. 2 stars
3/01/03 WestcoastPunk Spacey is a god 5 stars
2/28/03 stud A GREAT FILM 5 stars
2/27/03 larry diek though it was great! fuck everyone else 5 stars
2/26/03 James S. Fritz OK movie but flawed by illogical plot twists and holes 3 stars
2/26/03 Eberto E. Soto Jr A Great Film about our judicial system and the extent that people would do to be heard. 5 stars
2/26/03 Poetchuck Good whodunit 5 stars
2/25/03 icemltr You misdjudged it; great story of the debate over death penalty, great acting and suspense 5 stars
2/25/03 Mister Bigglesworth Rush Limbaugh bet Michael Moore couldn't direct comedy! Leftist, rightist, all the samist! 1 stars
2/25/03 Stephanie I felt depressed and unhappy after seeing this movie. I wondered why they even made it. 1 stars
2/24/03 Cele Cinema Whether or not you agree with the politics, a nail biter. 4 stars
2/23/03 Ryan FB Predictable, banal, trite, hackneyed, and condescending. One of the worst films ever. 1 stars
2/23/03 brentyoung some people misunderstand the movie's point & call it "confusing." it's not;it'sbrilliant. 5 stars
2/22/03 bob leather jacket I disagree with the message from the movie, Criminals need to be put to death 3 stars
2/21/03 oki Armando very inteligent story 5 stars
2/20/03 Ingo Convetional story, clever outlined. Spacey in a deadlock as an actor? 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Feb-2003 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  22-May-2003


Directed by
  Alan Parker

Written by
  Charles Randolph

Cast
  Kevin Spacey
  Kate Winslet
  Laura Linney
  Gabriel Mann
  Matt Craven
  Rhona Mitra



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