Generally unfavorable reviews - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 36
  2. Negative: 15 out of 36
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  1. The secrets of the plot must remain unrevealed by me, so that you can be offended by them yourself, but let it be said this movie is about as corrupt, intellectually bankrupt and morally dishonest as it could possibly be without David Gale actually hiring himself out as a joker at the court of Saddam Hussein.
  2. 75
    The picture is neither flawless nor foolproof, but it's smart and tight enough to keep audiences off-balance and entertained for the running length.
  3. 50
    A shock ending may be the best hope for this film, a convoluted mystery that thinks it's way smarter than it is.
  4. 25
    So nasty, hysterical and long-winded -- and unintentionally makes capital punishment foes look so twisted -- you wish someone had administered a lethal injection to this dreck in its planning stages.
  5. A self-righteous mishmash that can't decide whether to be a tribute to the fanatical leftist passion that thrives in college towns, an indictment of that very same fanaticism, or a ghoulishly didactic snuff-video thriller.
  6. By the end, it reveals itself as too pat, too absurd and -- as a polemic against capital punishment -- philosophically self- defeating.
  7. 40
    The film's greatest asset is Linney, whose prickly, finely calibrated performance as the doomed Harraway makes her loss resonate more powerfully than any of the point-counterpoint rhetoric.
  8. The Grisham-esque murder-mystery plot got so scrambled that, finally, it’s anybody’s guess what the filmmakers intended.
  9. More concerned with quickening our pulses than broadening our minds.
  10. Unlike "Dead Man Walking" and many honorable dramas before it, "David Gale" has nothing coherent to say about capital punishment, or anything else. It's a dead film lurching.
  11. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Soon, the audience feels its own sense of despair -- for a movie that might have worked but didn't.
  12. 25
    Positively reeks of self-importance -- the jokey, ham-fisted, pseudo-socially relevant, punch-pulling kind. It reeks worse of acting -- the Jack-Lemmon-in-a-coma Kevin Spacey kind.
  13. Plot contrivances, including an ominous cowboy-hatted figure who stalks Bitsey and her tagalong intern (Gabriel Mann), undermine the story's serious political themes.
  14. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    As I've implied, this is a great midnight movie: I enjoyed every patchily edited, ham-fisted scene. But I don't like seeing the wonderful Kate Winslet look stupid, or the wonderful Laura Linney abase herself.
  15. David Gale deserves the chair for its brutal assault on subtlety.
  16. Frankly, the film's real surprise is that it doesn't collapse under the weight of its sanctimonious posturing and howling pretension. The film is crammed with high-cultural references and people playing "smart," but none of it adds up.
  17. 30
    Tries to show it has its heart in the right place, but it's such a crude undertaking that it doesn't actually seem to have a heart at all.
  18. 40
    Becomes more and more preposterous with each scene -- it's almost like performance art.
  19. 10
    A new low for director Alan Parker, this trite mystery thriller does for capital punishment what his "Mississippi Burning" did for civil rights: with its muddled message, liberal piety, and slick Hollywood plot mechanics.
  20. Randolph and Parker play fair with us, setting up a motive early and clearly. Yet whether you buy the motive or find it far-fetched, it almost immediately tells you who's responsible for the death.
  21. In trying to disguise his themes within the structure of a noir thriller, Parker was simply more successful at fooling himself than us.
  22. Damned if Parker hasn't done it again. An intermittently good filmmaker but a consistently bad polemicist, he may well sway opinion here -- but, oops, not in the hoped-for direction.
  23. 50
    In the end, the intelligence of the dialogue and crack acting are wrestled to the ground by the zealous politics, the formulaic narrative and a wan and flaccid air unusual from the reliably nifty Parker.
  24. By turns brilliant and simplistic, moving and preposterous, the movie takes one of the ultimate hot-button American issues -- the morality of capital punishment -- and dissolves it into a volatile mix of psychological thriller and socio-political fable.
  25. The movie depends on one of those big surprise endings for its effectiveness, but the script gives itself away in the first act.
  26. 50
    There's no real artistry to this: It's as though Parker has just seen "Seven" and suffered some sort of David Fincher flashback.
  27. 20
    One of those hyper-articulate messes which inspire awe and a kind of nauseated pity. [3 March 2003, p. 94]
  28. 10
    Another tediously sanctimonious message movie from Alan Parker.
  29. Over and over in the course of the film, we can see Spacey, a good actor, reaching down into himself to find a source of verity for this plot-constructed character. It is not a pretty sight.
  30. Some of this stuff should give you some good laughs. Unfortunately, the film's not a comedy, and once the conservative-bashing wears off, the alleged thriller elements kick in. Too bad that for you, the viewer, there's still another hour to go.
  31. 20
    Going through the motions of a liberal-Hollywood polemic with the sweaty, mounting hysteria of a bad liar, The Life of David Gale is foremost an overheating gotcha machine, scripted by first-timer Charles Randolph with seams showing and red herrings stinking up the joint.
  32. 40
    The film doesn't have anything but bad news for Spacey fans anxious for the actor to break a stinky streak.
  33. 20
    Bad movies are easy to make, but as this overheated and self-defeating propaganda piece shows, it takes a genuinely talented group of people to come up with the most astonishing botch jobs.
  34. Reviewed by: David Stratton
    Punches the expected buttons without being entirely convincing.
  35. 40
    The movie's one unalloyed pleasure is a funny Goth Girl, played by Melissa McCarthy, who grasps, as Parker apparently doesn't, that the script is energetic rubbish, not The Greatest Story Ever Told.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 78 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 35
  2. Negative: 10 out of 35
  1. Jul 6, 2011
    the first few minutes of the film are very bearable, and you can see the movie is being supported by actors who are very good at what they dothe first few minutes of the film are very bearable, and you can see the movie is being supported by actors who are very good at what they do and a nice director. the movie brings so many questions and doesn't answer them, sometimes it's not necessarily a bad thing, but in this case - it's very bad. you feel like it wants to be a very exciting thriller but it fails exactly when it gets to the last scene, after you see it it seems like they wanted to grab everyone's attention and make the film memorable - didn't work on me. not worth watching - next Full Review »
  2. Feb 11, 2014
    This is Dead Man Walking by amateurs. It's plot is convoluted, the acting is dull, and the ending is an insult. It just doesn't give anyThis is Dead Man Walking by amateurs. It's plot is convoluted, the acting is dull, and the ending is an insult. It just doesn't give any arguments regarding the death penalty, all it does is repeat the same message over and over again, bludgeoning you over the head. Thankfully this became a box office bomb. Full Review »
  3. Sep 9, 2010
    Sorry for the translation, in mechanical.

    The news: "Abuse a child and then kill." For "his" father and "his" mother open the doors of
    Sorry for the translation, in mechanical.

    The news: "Abuse a child and then kill."

    For "his" father and "his" mother open the doors of "non-sense of Life."
    I, as a reaction manifest emotional reading or hearing this news?
    Anger, rage, anger, disgust, contempt and then?
    And then return to "my" peaceful world, shut off "the others and their problems.

    "One more news, unfortunately."
    There is only one name to give to my attitude. Indifference.
    It 'a very serious illness, experts say.
    Symptoms: Do not want to understand, not wanting to speak, not wanting to participate in drama to make an informed choice. The "never happen to me" is the motto of indifference.
    Is not a film to change the "certainty" of people.
    One film, if done well, can help you reflect, perhaps to illuminate the shadows still unexplored. Discussions, debates, meetings, research, well-being. The target is centered.
    Falls into error, I think, who think that "The Life of David Gale" is a film for the Texans, or other states, far from it.
    Texas does not need these films. Why? Becouse this people familiar with the offenses that can lead you to lethal injection.
    It is, however, a punch in the stomach for the rest of the globe,
    this drama lives it only indirectly.

    Think, is not fiction stage for the parties involved, who live "intus et in cute" the execution of a sentence, most often immutable.

    Time adversary, inquisitorial, indictment, the bench, reading the verdict, death row, employees injection, printing, Forum for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and so on.

    It 's a tragedy without end, even turns into tragedy when curtain time and alternate judges as much on the trial. So what about the victims on the attackers.

    The Life of David Gale, in my opinion, a good movie. Is in the dialogues that I see so much sap. Are endless dialogues to release particles of emotional intensity, giving strength and character to most of the work.
    Philosopher and rookie screenwriter Charles Randolph gives to Alan Parker, director, a strong screenplay.
    The film is a work with content suitable for persons who want to think, reflect, ask questions, put a strain on their beliefs.

    Who wants to do, sit in a chair, will not be disappointed.
    Spacey (philosophy professor) and Laura Linney (Constance) are people "triadic" - body, mind, spirit, are committed to a very noble goal. Fight for "life" of those condemned to death.

    Question: - The film's characters are presented as the fanatical extremists of an idea, a proposal or as a people full of passion, transport for that idea? This is important, I think the difference is substantial advantage or disadvantage of static or dynamic of the film, it does not deserve, I believe, hasty judgments.
    Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet), a young but established journalist is asked by David Gale, sentenced to death three days before the execution to hear his story. During the three meetings the journalist did not "only limited to listening," onset of action. A story to follow with a final not so obvious.


    Personally privilege the person who asks questions and I have many reservations for who is considered the holder of certainties. I prefer the question mark (?) That exclamation mark (!). Good Ciak!
    Full Review »