Deadline Movie Review

You know, frankly I still don't know where I stand on capital punishment. On the one hand, if I was wrongfully accused of committing a crime, I'd probably prefer not to be killed for it. At the same time, I don't have a problem with the execution of mass murderers like John Wayne Gacy, a point that one pundit eloquently makes in the new documentary, Deadline.In a nutshell, the film is a retrospective look at Illinois Governer George Ryan, a former pharmacist and remarkably down to earth gentleman, who, as one of his last acts before leaving office in early 2003, commuted the sentence of every prisoner on death row to life in prison. In broader strokes, the film discusses the death penalty in general, asking whether it's relevant or appropriate in a superpower like America. (According to the film, the U.S. is #3 in executions behind China and Iran.)

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.


Comments

Ven's picture

Ven

well I didnt want to comment on the review I actully wanted to say something about the movie....and I know I can go on some lame blog site but hey you guys where my first choice. ok firs off at least it kind of kept you into I will admit that the story it self has been done! The movie made you expect somehting and then nothing ever came....I just wish I knew what the writer was thinking. Because it looks to me like he sat down had a "suspence" night and then took all those movies mixed them up and said "hey I got a movie!" haha well I didnt think the make up was bad or the acting was bad....the volume on the movie though could have used a little work for example when Brittany Murphy trys to "communicate" with Thora Birch she says "help me" and when Merphy replys you can barly make out what she is trying to say. I will admit that I ALMOST did rent it...which in all honesty would have been a waste of a rental. I wonder how people that paid 10 dollars to see the movie felt....and I wonder how many wanted a refund HAHAHA! well that is all I have to say for now...and I am sooooo sad that such a wonderful actress had to have this movie under her belt before she passed.

4 years 4 months ago
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Deadline Rating

" OK "

Rating: NR, 2004

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