The Life of David Gale (2003)

Genres - Drama, Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Message Movie, Crime Drama, Melodrama  |   Release Date - Feb 21, 2003 (USA)  |   Run Time - 131 min.  |   Countries - Germany , Poland , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Perry Seibert

Alan Parker's The Life of David Gale serves up an ending so illogical that the film collapses under the weight of its implausibility, intellectual dishonesty, and silliness. Parker and former philosophy professor turned first-time screenwriter Charles Randolph attempt to fashion a thriller flavored with deep philosophical thoughts on capital punishment, the purpose of life, and martyrdom. Transparent B-movie clich├ęs (cars that always seem to break down at the least opportune moment, needlessly ejaculatory musical stingers punctuating supposedly tense situations, the mysterious stranger shadowing the heroine) consistently undermine whatever intelligence the heavy-handed philosophical discussions bring to the film. And while the high-end academic talk could provide a couple of moments of intellectual interest, they come off as little more than a pretentious way to beef up a lifeless mystery. The film's denouement manages to render everything that has come before utterly unnecessary (why exactly would Gale grant hard-bitten reporter Bitsey an interview?) and intellectually dishonest (Gale's actions are incompatible with his stated goals). That the film wastes the time and talent of such a gifted cast makes it even more painful to watch. However, the actors and actresses have nobody but themselves to blame, as the huge deficiencies in the film would have been recognizable with any intelligent reading of the screenplay. The Life of David Gale wants to keep the audience guessing, but it ends up leaving a thinking viewer at best dismayed, and at worst angry and annoyed.