The Life of David Gale

By Mark Ramsey | 2003/02/23

In the annals of Hollywood history, only rarely have the terms “capital punishment” and “box office blockbuster” been found in the same sentence – although they’re very often found in the same theater.

With all the crazy stuff going on in the world, who wants to pay for a two-hour death penalty lecture? If it’s a lethal injection I want, they can pump it onto my popcorn just like usual.

The great Kevin Spacey returns from the land of mawkish movie misfits for a subtle-as-a-brick-to-the-head lesson in morality coming at the expense of the moviegoer – in more ways than one.

davidgale_hair.jpgA very high-strung Laura Linney gets murdered in a most unpleasant manner – she’s bound naked, her head covered in a plastic bag. “It was either that,” explained Laura, “or shirt reading ‘I was in The Mothman Prophecies and all I got was this dumb t-shirt.” It’s a long way down the prestige stairs from her Oscar-nominated turn in You Can Count on Me but Laura is making the trip three steps at a time.

Before the crime, Kevin was a philosophy professor. He was seduced by a student whose looks are several standard deviations above the mean and whose aptitude is several standard deviations below the belt. This was not the kind of Kant he was aiming for, but she had Cogito Ergo Sum kind of body!

“Rip off my panties,” she asks him. “Bite my shoulder,” she pleads. “Punch your hand through my head, rip out my spine, and wave it over your head like a castaway signaling to a passing freighter!”

When Laura is found dead, Kevin is the prime suspect: Did he or didn’t he? Only his hair-dresser knows – but in this case, his hairdresser is a sweatshop of Asian juveniles laboriously hand-weaving one fiber at a time.

Kate Winslet takes a temporary hiatus from playing younger versions of aged acting veterans to portray what’s described as a “hard-nosed” investigative reporter named “Bitsy.” Bitsy? Is this short for Elizabitsy? Worse, her last name is Bloom – Bitsy Bloom. If she can’t save David Gale she can always hook up with Superman.

davidgale_cross.jpgKevin isn’t helped much by an attorney who loves cornpone catch-phrases like pigs love blankets. “That’s a whole different kettle of crawdads,” the attorney exclaims as he flashes a smile so misshapen, his teeth seem to be splitting up with the possibility of a reunion tour sometime in the future. “You’re playing a little too close to the cotton, missy!” That’s missy Bitsy to you, buster!

Long after we’ve been beaten into submission, the filmmakers beat us down again, contrasting the contents of Kevin’s last meal with the contents of his lethal injection cocktail. At $86.08, let’s hope this cocktail is at least Vegan.

Like any cocktail, this one comes with a twist. And this twist involves a series of sense-shattering improbabilities. One kooky thing leads to another until all the kooky things are lined up like kooky dominoes which proceed to fall kookily.

The Life of David Gale is a movie of zealots and martyrs – folks stripped of hope and, in some cases, just plain stripped. Unfortunately, this movie couldn’t be any more heavy-handed if it walked on all fours.

Photos Copyright ©2003 Universal Pictures


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