Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

06 January 2008

Death & Texas, dir. Kevin DiNovis (2004)

NIKKI says:
Neither of us could go past the idea of a mockumentary about the death penalty that posits: Will condemned killer Barefoot Bobby Briggs be allowed out of prison the day before his execution to play in the Mega-Bowl? And it stars Charles Durning, so we were in. Results were mixed. Good as its arguments were regarding the death penalty and the screwed American judicial system, the film itself (just over an hour-long) didn't really live its potential.

It's main issue was indecisiveness about whether or not it was serious or satirical. Mary Kay Place, for instance, was comedic as the mother of the convenience store clerk killed by Briggs. In fact, everything she says, pretty much, seems like it's meant to be funny. And she overplays the hell out of the kitschy Texan mom character. But Durning is usually ultra-serious when he discusses anti-death penalty arguments and the poor case against his client. So, I didn't really know what the movie wanted to me to feel. Of course, it's preaching to the converted in our house, so we nodded along with the Abolition Coalition people, while rightfully scoffing at the "burn him!" factions.

An interesting experiment, but it failed for me. Its death row inmate, Briggs (played by Steve Harris), was likable, so were the lawyers, Briggs' family, and even Briggs' co-conspirator who all but admits he planned the whole thing and Briggs was an unwilling accomplice. So, I'm not challenged. I'm not forced to confront my beliefs in any way. It was too easy, I guess. And because of that lack, the satire (if that's indeed what Place and the Mega-Bowl were) fell very flat.


STEVE says:
Yeah, this one just didn't do it for me. I know not all mockumentaries are comedies - witness Interview with the Assassin and Death of a President - but the IMDb has Death & Texas clearly listed as a comedy, and I just didn't see it.

The "will-he-or-won't-he-play" Mega-bowl subplot was not very well thought out, I have to say. Why in the name of all that is holy was "Barefoot" Bobby Briggs let out of prison - and not just prison-prison, but death row - to play football? Is there a work-release program there that no one's heard about? This was glossed over very early on, explained away in mock legalese, so that we could get to the good stuff - which wasn't that good in the end anyway.

The satirical element here (at least as I saw it) was in taking the two things Texans love most - football and killin' - and putting them head-to-head, see which comes out on top. But even the ending was a cop-out because you know Bobby's going to play in the game, just as you know, win or lose, he's going to be put to death the next day. It's win-win for Texas.

I'm will concede that maybe I missed the point. If anyone wants to explain it to me, I'm willing to listen. But for now, Death & Texas gets 2 out of 5.

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