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Overall Rating

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 EricDSnider

"The twist is so stupid, the film should be viewed twice, to hate it more."
2 stars

If your movie has a surprise twist in it, you should not trumpet that fact loudly in your advertising, the way Universal has done with "The Life of David Gale". It acts as a challenge to the audience, practically daring them to spot the twist before it occurs, thus ruining the effect you intended it to have on them.

The exception, of course, is if the twist is so ingenious that even people looking for it can?t find it until you reveal it to them. But that?s not the case with ?David Gale.? The director, Alan Parker (?Evita,? ?Angela?s Ashes?), doesn?t have the finesse to play things on the down-low, and the screenplay by first-timer Charles Randolph drops hints awkwardly.

Though I am apparently very dumb and couldn?t quite piece it together until 15 minutes before the secret was revealed, the three critics and one civilian sitting nearest me had it a full hour before. (In my own defense, I was trying NOT to ruin the movie for myself ... and I still had it a quarter-hour before the movie wanted me to.)

But this is counter-productive. All this talk is probably making you MORE eager to see the movie, not less. And it?s not that you shouldn?t see it; it?s that you shouldn?t be excited about seeing it. It?s an average movie of average intellect with mostly average acting, but with below-average skill at presenting its message.

The message is that the death penalty is wrong. In the movie, the people who disagree with that notion are Texas rednecks, and the ones who agree are the good guys, with Yankee accents. One of them is even a huge opera buff, just to show you how civilized he is.

Among the biggest abolitionists in Texas is David Gale (Kevin Spacey) who of course is a transplant and therefore does not have the local accent, and who at the film?s beginning has been convicted of murder and is sentenced to die. Cruel irony, that the state?s leading anti-death penalty advocate is about to become a victim of it.

But of course something is fishy, and Gale has requested an exclusive interview with no-nonsense news reporter Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) just prior to his execution. Bitsey has a lot to learn. She is a Northerner, and very well educated -- but tragically, she still thinks the death penalty is OK. ?Maybe he?s innocent,? her boss says of Gale. ?Yeah, right,? is her derisive reply. Surely she will learn a mighty lesson before film?s end!

Accompanied by an intern who does not serve any purpose in the movie, Bitsey heads to Texas, where Gale tells his story: After a trumped-up rape charge that was dropped, his life fell into disrepair. Then fellow abolitionist Constance Hallaway (Laura Linney), who had a strained platonic relationship with Gale, turned up raped and murdered. The physical evidence was damning, and Gale was convicted of the crimes. Now he will die, though he maintains his innocence.

In a manner not unlike that of Scooby-Doo?s friends, Bitsey and the intern (Gabriel Mann) snoop around for clues, leading to the aforementioned unsurprising surprise ending. Along the way, they encounter one sinister figure after another, and more videotapes than a Blockbuster employee.

The dialogue is occasionally sharp, but often forced, as when Bitsey makes ?astute? observations like, ?Never eat at a restaurant where the menus have pictures of the food,? and ?Coincidences are always weird. That?s why they?re coincidences.?

In the acting department, we have solid performances from solid actors, but nothing spectacular. The closest thing we get to emotionally gripping is Laura Linney?s rather brave turn as Constance -- an interesting character who doesn?t get enough chance to be herself before the movie is done with her.

I have no problem with the politics of this movie, nor of pretty much any movie, regardless of whether I agree with them. My only concern as a critic is how the politics are conveyed. Even if I were a rabid anti-death penalty crusader, I would not be impressed by the high and mighty histrionics put on display in this film. Those who do not already agree with the movie are not likely to change their minds after seeing the inelegant and ham-fisted arguments presented here. It?s a film with decent ideas, but a weak execution.

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originally posted: 03/18/03 18:01:56
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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
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
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  21-Feb-2003 (R)



Directed by
  Alan Parker

Written by
  Charles Randolph

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

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