Published Jan 01, 2006Alan Parker's The Life of David Gale suffers from the new plague: it tries to do everything in the same movie. Kevin Spacey plays philosophy professor and anti-death penalty activist David Gale, now awaiting execution for the murder of his colleague and fellow activist Constance Halloway (Laura Linney). Kate Winslet is journalist Bitsey Bloom, who is selected by Gale to interview him the during last three days before his death in order to reveal his innocence. Consequently, the "life" is done in flashbacks interspersed with scenes of the interaction between Gale and Bloom. Spacey has ample opportunity to reveal himself as a successful academic, brilliant partier, loving father, wronged husband, fallible mortal and after the destruction of his career by a vindictive student, a grief-stricken father, wronged husband, broken man, drunk and struggling recovering alcoholic. Along the way he often has the opportunity to speechify in an impressive fashion. These serial performances add up to more of an acting sampler than a complicated character capable of the astonishing conspiracy that is the lynchpin of the plot. However, even more consistent and restrained performances like Linney's creak under the weight of excess in this film. Set in Texas, we are treated to the requisite Southern eccentrics in the person of Braxton Belyeu (Gale's lawyer), a pony-tailed sleaze ball, and Dusty Wright, a cowboy who drives around menacingly in his truck playing Puccini. Naturally we are alerted that something pretty strange is going down. And Winslet's character, described as "Mike Wallace with PMS," hard-boiled though she is, will inevitably encounter enough gut-wrenching stuff in her search for the truth to crack her shell and bring her to the cause. The biggest problem with this movie though, is a rhythm so ponderous that only in the last third does it gather enough momentum to be recognised as a thriller, at which time it does surface as a reasonably entertaining movie of the commercial genre. But is it a thriller advocating big questions or just a big question generating big dollars?