“The Life of David Gale” begins as anti-death penalty activist David Gale (Kevin Spacey) sits on death row convicted of the rape and murder of a fellow activist. His story is told to a driven young reporter, the svelte Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet), who attempts to ascertain the “truth” about the case before his execution.

Todd Weiser
Courtesy of Universal

Gale, a former philosophy professor at the fictional University of Austin, has a checkered past, including his arrest for the rape of a recently-expelled graduate student. However, even after retracting her allegation, he loses his job, his family and emerges from his travails as a hopeless drunkard. Gale is no Hannibal Lecter, so Bloom sifts through a mass of evidence to determine his innocence.

Director Alan Parker and screenwriter Charles Randolph prove no masters of subtlety. The characters come across as blunt caricatures and the gyrating segues from flashback scenes to the present should cause most viewers to come down with an acute bout of seasickness.

A respectable cast can’t even save the film from its own death sentence. Spacey is truly pitiful as a doting daddy, while Winslet does little better as Spacey’s vivacious foil.

“The Life of David Gale” struggles to articulate a rational argument against the death penalty. Unfortunately, the stilted dialogue, half-baked characters, abysmal score and innumerable plot leaps prevent the film from achieving this goal.

1 1/2 Stars

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