The Life of David Gale



USA 2003 : Alan Parker : 130mins

After The Shipping News, K-PAX and Pay It Forward comes yet another staggeringly lousy script-choice from Kevin Spacey, whose hunger for a third Oscar threatens to cripple his movie career. This time he’s landed himself in a cack-handed death-row melodrama as David Gale, anti-capital-punishment activist convicted of murdering a fellow-campaigner (Laura Linney). When ambitious reporter Bitsey (Kate Winslet) is assigned to report on Gale’s last days before execution, she soon realises the case may be anything but open-and-shut.

Hollywood is predictably lily-livered when it comes to tackling hot political subjects, which is why David Gale a shockingly wasted opportunity. Charles Randolph’s script reduces a very sensitive issue to the status of a crass sub-John Grisham potboiler which at times resembles a straight-faced version of Habeas Corpus, the famously absurd film-within-a-film from Robert Altman’s The Player.

Apparently having lost the ability he possessed to make such trashy fun out of Angel Heart, ‘Sir Alan’ this time directs as though he’s wearing boxing-gloves – punctuating the various sections with laughable spinning montages of words like RAPE and MURDER in extreme close-up. The absurdities mount from start to finish, resulting in a thoroughly offensive misfire which, if anything, will make viewers more favourably disposed to the death penalty than they were beforehand. The only plus is the miraculous Linney – who deserves every award going for somehow emerging from this wreckage with her dignity intact.

22nd February, 2003
(seen 24th January, Warner Village, Ellesmere Port)

Are there any other films as bad as this? Of course there are!
Read about them in our Diorama of Dishonour.