Deadline Movie Review
The film is indeed partisan, as you might expect, and it offers plenty of testimony from convicted innocents and even families of murdered victims -- all of whom rail against the death penalty. There unfortunately isn't much of a plea here aside from the oft-visited notions that a) execution is cruel and unusual punishment and b) it does nothing to ease the pain of the survivors. Most of the film is content to rehash various cases wherein the wrongly convicted are finally deemed innocent -- further proof that a death sentence is a bad thing.
These are fair arguments but it's an extremely narrow view of the situation, even if you were interested in only showing the anti-death penalty side of the argument. Where, for example, is the standby argument that the death penalty doesn't serve as valuable deterrence in a crime?
And of course there's no viewpoint from the other side of the fence or really even much from a neutral third party. Does the death sentence deter crime or not? Haven't genuine criminals been put to death in the past -- and haven't freed murderers gone on to kill again? What does it cost to house a criminal "for life" without parole? And has this ultimate form of closure given any help to the families of the victims? I'm not arguing for these viewpoints, I just really want to know the answers. Surely the handful of people put to death in America each year is not on par with the Holocaust... or is it?
Ryan is pictured as a hero in this film -- ignoring the fact that he was indicted late last year in a massive corruption probe and left the governer's office a mere step away from the way Nixon did. But the guy seems like a nice fellow, and his heart is in the right place. So are the hearts of directors Kate Chevigny and Kirsten Johnson, and even though Deadline comes across like a lackluster film school project that's desperately lacking in context and objectivity, those looking for fuel to throw on the fire will find plenty of kindling here.
The DVD adds a number of extras, including extra interviews, the full speech that Ryan gave in his closing days in office, and an interview with the two directors.