"The Life of David Gale"
Directed by Alan Parker.
Written by Charles Randolph.
Starring Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet and Laura Linney.
Release Year: 2003
Review Date: 2/24/03
My friend Amy was in town this past weekend
and although we had a pretty full weekend including touristy stuff,
burritos and Sunday-morning dancing (oh yeah), the mark of any good
vacation to hang out with me is to go see a flick. Amy vetoed
School” and opted for “The Life of David Gale” instead, because it
had, in her words, “a good preview.”
The preview for this new Kevin Spacey film
is good, but the release date of this film immediately makes it
questionable--if this film had screened really well, it probably
would have opened in December to make it eligible for the Oscar
race; but, by releasing it in February, the folks behind the film
are telling us that they are just blindly hoping that it would make
them some money as alternate adult programming to compete against
the teen-skewing “Old School” and the popcorny
I’ll give “The Life of David Gale” this
much--it does hold your attention. Spacey stars as the title
character, a death penalty opponent that is a Harvard graduate and
teacher in the state of Texas now on Death Row for murdering a
friend & colleague (Laura Linney) that had ties to his work in the
field of law. We pick up the story four days from Gale’s execution,
and as a last rite of passage, Gale has arranged for a big-name
reporter (Kate Winslet) to conduct the first interviews granted
since the murders eight years prior to clear his name...if not in
the eyes of the law then in the eyes of his ex-wife and young son.
The film mostly takes place in the past as we watch Gale struggle
through a bout with alcoholism and a possible rape charge to find
his way in getting the governor of Texas to overturn the death
There is actually a little more to the plot
that I am leaving out, but it is not important in the process of
telling you that the film aspires to be nothing more than a preachy,
symbolism-laden diatribe on the death penalty, something that I
currently have no passion for and therefore could give a
chicken-fried shit about in the course of a 135-minute film. Spacey
acts his ass off and is pretty good in this role, but the film just
didn’t grab me by the throat enough to make the drama very
arresting. Like I said, it is quite watchable--by mixing in the
Winslet character with the flashbacks of how Gale came to be in his
position, the scenes are never boring; they just never build on one
another towards a reasonably-predictable conclusion.
It doesn’t help that “The Life of David
Gale” goes all “Vanilla Sky” on us near the end, by just telling us
what really happened through some unbelievable problem-solving by Winslet’s reporter in the final 20 minutes and spoon-feeding of the
essential facts near the end of the film’s running time. The scenes
with what looks like the one bad guy in the film are preposterous
and comical, and the clichéd RedneckTalk by Gale’s lawyer (played
with by-the-book Cajun spice by Leon Rippy) featured more “Well
honey, I’ll be blank-blank by a bliggety-blank-blank if you’s
right!” than I was willing to stomach.
Much like many of Spacey’s films over the
last five years (“The Shipping News”, “Pay it Forward”, “K-PAX”),
“The Life of David Gale” looks like it wants to aim high on paper,
but plays down to the level of competition by the end.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard