A shock ending may be the best hope for this film, a convoluted mystery that thinks it's way smarter than it is. Kevin Spacey stars as David Gale, a Texas prof on death row for raping and killing a fellow activist (Laura Linney) against — oh, the irony! — the death penalty. Kate Winslet plays the reporter to whom Gale gives his last interview. Working from a script by first-timer Charles Randolph, director Alan Parker alternately engages and infuriates. Parker's flash works in some movies (Midnight Express, The Commitments) and exposes the hollowness of others, such as Evita and this one. Except for Linney, the actors ride the surface. Spacey, hopeless in a flashback drunk scene, is all bogus emotion. And the usually solid Winslet is reduced to mostly crying and running, possibly in reaction to a race-against-the-clock ending that shocks, yes, but only by jerking our chain.
From The Archives Issue 917: March 6, 2003