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Avg. Rating: 3.5
Film Noir: A Dark Comedy with Some Major Statements to Make
Kyle Bergersen wrote and directed this very strange comedic film noir, a movie that didn't get a lot of attention in its theatrical release but that is gaining a following in the DVD format. It is smart, clever, weird, and very well made. Bergersen has the ability to take a rather silly story to reveal a lot of important questions about education, capital punishment, prison life, and the delicate balance between humanity and inhumanity! LOVE COMES TO THE EXECUTIONER works.
Heck Prigusivac (Jonathan Tucker) is a fresh graduate form college, having majored in Latin and Romance Languages, who returns to his small hometown where his ditsy alcoholic mother Miriam (Christine Ebersole) struggles with her addiction and with the fact that her son Chick (Jeremy Renner) sits on Death Row in the neighboring prison. Heck lands a job teaching Latin to the inmates, but with the proviso that he also accept the job as Closer (or Executioner). Heck adjusts to the strange situation and manages to learn the trade of capital punishment by lethal injection. He confronts his estranged brother Chick on death row and the two have word battles about their relationship AND the fact that Chick's ex-girlfriend Dori Dumchovic (Ginnifer Goodwin) is the first female to sit on death row a few cells down form Chick. Heck and Dori flirt and Heck 'falls' for Dori, actually impregnating her in the confines of the prison. Heck manages to become a popular Latin teacher with the inmates, but has some psychological stress as the Closer - especially as the time for Heck to execute Dori approaches. Through a clever trick that backfires, Heck agrees to help Dori escape the prison so that the two can raise their 'child', but Chick's streetwise abilities alter the plan, and love doesn't exactly stay around for the executioner!
Tucker, Renner, and Goodwin play the script straight and manage to draw us into their individual plights and dilemmas. The cinematography by Jimmy Lindsey keeps this 'interior' film exciting, even during the rather gross execution scenes. It is a strange way to present anti-capital punishment information, along side the death of the teaching of Latin and the Romance languages as markers for civility, that makes this film worth watching. It is a notch above the similar stories that dumb down the audience. Grady Harp, January 08
What pain a screenwriter must face when a script with such potential is subverted into something so poorly acted and badly cast.
At first, I was quite content ignoring how strained and contrived the film was by enjoying the beautiful cinematography. But after a while, even that got to me, because it was wholly inappropriate for this film.
How can one take the film seriously when embarrassingly common and well known policies and procedures regarding prisons are so blatantly ignored, to the point where the audience is insulted by the license taken with reality? It's downright stupid to think someone with no experience, training or certification can roam the prison freely, copulating with death row inmates and ultimately execute them. Yeah, I know it's entertainment, but if I'm forced by my functioning brain cells to involuntarily nitpick, the suspension of disbelief is lost off the charts. This COULD have worked with masterful delivery and direction, an area where this film is lacking.
If one strains enough, the gleamings of a funny script could be recognized on occasion. Think "To Die For", "Clay Pigeons", or any of the wonderful films by the Coen Brothers. This was the potential. What was delivered disappoints. Heavily. As an absolute devout fan of the dark comedy genre, I found nothing entertaining about Love Comes to the Executioner.
I blame the director for this mess. It was badly acted and the jokes and political/religious commentary was delivered with all the finesse of a bad sitcom. He should have reigned in his talented Director of Photography, too, because the tracking shots and and great lighting were conspicuous and overkill. But because of the nice visual distraction, I gave this film two stars instead of one.
A Really Twisted Dark Comedy (In A Good Way)
I saw this at SXSW, last year and just found out it's available. Very sick and funny!
Essentially, the hero just graduated from college with a degree in Classical Languages. He wants to teach high school Latin but ends up being a prison executioner in the small town where he grew up.
Complicating matters, his big brother's on death row (for trying to kill him) and so is his brother's ex-girlfriend. Creating a uniquely hilarious love triangle.
I found out that the lead, Jonathan Tucker, actually took Latin in high school. Making his scenes trying to teach Latin to the prisoners even funnier.
If you like Monty Python, Harold and Maude and Grosse Point Blank, you'll like this.
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