Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
The Life of David Gale (2003)

Billed as a taut suspense thriller, but really a liberal message movie in disguise, "The Life of David Gale" is the kind of hard-hitting drama that always attracts Hollywood stars.

Hardly surprising then, that the role of David Gale - an anti-capital punishment campaigner who's accused of murder and sent to death row - was rumoured to have caught the attention of George Clooney and Nicolas Cage.

Everybody, it seems, wants to play the condemned man.

In the end though, it was Kevin Spacey who nabbed the title role - a wise move on director Alan Parker's part, since Spacey has exactly the right amount of understated earnestness to make this death row drama effective.

Accused of murdering a friend and fellow activist (Laura Linney), Gale has just a few days to prove his innocence before he's sent for some short, sharp, shock treatment in the big chair.

Approaching fearsome journalist Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet), Gale convinces her to investigate the murder and his gradual fall from grace after becoming an adulterous alcoholic. It's a tough job, and time isn't on her side.

Told in flashback, "The Life of David Gale" piles up more red herrings than a fishmonger while keeping a close eye on the countdown to Gale's impending execution.

But as the plot twists are ironed out for the revelatory finale, it's clear that there's actually a lot less to this than meets the eye.

Spacey's finely honed, but somewhat lazy, performance (this is the kind of role he could play in his sleep) coupled with good supporting work from Gabriel Mann (as Bitsey's young intern) and Laura Linney (as the murder victim) make Parker's death row drama both professional and worthy.

But it's not exactly the edge-of-the-seat thriller it occasionally seems to think it is.

End Credits

Director: Alan Parker

Writer: Charles Randolph

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

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Length: 130 minutes

Cinema: 14 March 2003

Country: USA

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