starring Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney, Gabriel Mann
screenplay by Charles Randolph
directed by Alan Parker
by Walter Chaw SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. One wonders if there isn't, after all, a subtle right-wing conspiracy at work in the entertainment industry, where ultra-liberal stumps are turned into the sort of ostensibly pro-leftist propaganda reel that does serious harm to the pro-leftist agenda. If it's not the reprehensible The Contender, with its Ayn Rand-ian hypothetical, it's I Am Sam and its bizarre vilification of the child welfare system--or worse, John Q, with its curiously misdirected lament against our obviously broken health-care state. Trumping them all in terms of muddle and melodrama, however, is The Life of David Gale, an anti-death penalty tirade that, by the end, feels like a life sentence the audience wishes hadn't been commuted. The only way to make any sense of the film is to suspect it of darker motives: Its ultimate message, and it's not a bad one, seems to be that the criminal justice system the film so actively vilifies is, in fact, the only honest (though imperfect) force in the entire mess.