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The Life of David Gale

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Life of David Gale

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet
Director: Alan Parker
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 130 Minutes
Release Date: February 2003
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Laura Linney, Gabriel Mann, Rhona Mitra, Matt Craven, Leon Rippy, Jim Beaver, Elizabeth Gast

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

Dr. David Gale (Kevin Spacey), the state of Texas's leading death penalty abolitionist, is on death row and about to be executed in THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE, directed by Alan Parker (ANGELA'S ASHES). Top of his Harvard class and a Rhodes scholar, Gale has been convicted of the brutal rape and murder of Constance Hallaway (Laura Linney), who used to work with him at Death Watch, an anti-capital punishment group. With only four days left, Gale is going to give his only interview since he was arrested to Elizabeth "Bitsey" Bloom (Kate Winslet), a reporter with a national reputation for shielding her sources.

This high concept movie is less a diatribe against the death penalty, although it does take an unconscionable number of cheap shots against the practice, than it is a thriller and a mystery. Thanks to fine acting all around, the movie is thoroughly entertaining, which helps gloss over its problems. As a thriller, it isn't scary, no matter how many potentially threatening situations Bitsey gets herself into. And, as a mystery, it makes a fatal mistake as it early and often telegraphs its one big ending twist.

As time runs out on Bitsey's interviews with Gale, she becomes convinced that he is innocent, but how is she going to prove it? With some help coming from out of the blue, she begins to patch together what just might be the evidence she needs to get a stay of his execution by lethal injection. Along the way, Parker throws in some completely needless scenes. One of the most superfluous is one in which the alcoholic Gale wanders the street babbling about Socrates to passersby who treat Gale like he is invisible. These meaningless scenes are balanced by several deliciously fun ones, with the best being those involving a Goth girl who runs a macabre museum at the house where Constance was murdered.

THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE is a perfect film for a February opening, a time when viewers are less critical and happy to kick back and enjoy an old fashioned mystery/thriller.

THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE runs 2:10. It is rated R for "violent images, nudity, language and sexuality" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

My son Jeffrey, almost 14, gave it *** 1/2, saying enthusiastically that it was "[darn] good." He liked all of the acting, and he especially enjoyed the plot's originality.

Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes

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