"Dead Man Walking" DVD, Blu-Ray Movie Review

2/13/2011 Posted by Admin

"Dead Man Walking"

DVD, Blu-Ray Movie Review

Directed by Tim Robbins, Written by Tim Robbins and Helen Prejean (novel), 122-minutes, Rated R.

By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz

Director Tim Robbins had the noblest intentions with "Dead Man Walking," just out on Blu-ray disc, and to his credit, he does present a well-rounded look at the death penalty debate. Using an impartial religious figure as his center, Robbins paints a full picture of the argument -- it just isn't a very colorful one.

Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) finds herself in a difficult situation when she spiritually guides death row inmate Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn). Sentenced to death for the rape and murder of two teenagers, Matthew wins Helen's affection through his rough upbringing, which bred him into an incorrigible racist.

Seeing the value in all life and the hypocrisy of Mosaic Law, as well as the power of redemption, Sister Helen helps Matthew -- much to the disdain of the victims' families. In turn, Helen meets with the family and learns of the results of Matthew's crimes, complicating her choice to help him.

Robbins’ film objectivity plays like "In Cold Blood"-lite. Truman Capote's true crime epic presented a complete look at a dreadful crime, with a clear eye on both sides--and while retaining a neutral narrator. The author's diligence allowed the reader into the lives of the killers, the victims and those on the outside, thus making the crime unbearable to read.

"Dead Man Walking" tries something similar, but it doesn't allow us to meet the victims. We see the killer and the surviving family. However, Robbins omission of the murdered teens makes it hard to get a full picture. He shows us their murder, but he denies us the opportunity to see them truly alive. Matthew's crime never completely fleshes out and, as such, it loses some of its emotional resonance.

Penn does a remarkable job making the easy-to-hate Poncelet, a complex and sympathetic character. His interactions with Sarandon shift from hostile to comforting quickly, making their relationship understandable, even if it seems confusing at first. Robbins wants the audience to remain level headed when approaching Poncelet, so Penn creates a man out of a monster.

"Dead Man Walking" is a complicated film. It’s provocative, well acted and intelligent. Yet the hole left by the absent victims makes the film feel incomplete, with Robbins' objectivity acting as a strength and a weakness.

Grade: B+

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes