cranky home
Reviews since 1993:   A-E     F-N      O-Z    Posters       Who We Are and Why We Do What We Do         Search the Site

Your Donations support the Site

Top Selling DVD     Books

50 Shades of Grey
Exodus Gods and Kings
Grand Budapest Hotel
Imitation Game, The
Into the Woods

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Theory of Everything
Ride Along
We're the Millers
The Great Gatsby
The Avengers
Amazing Spider-Man
Girl w/ Dragon Tattoo
Dark Knight Trilogy
World War Z
Happy Feet 2
Iton Man 3 combo
Batman Begins
Dark Knight
Fifth Element
The Hangover
Hunger Games
James Bond 11 disc coll.
Lord of the Rings trilogy
Mission Impossible GP
Sherlock Holmes AGOS
Singing in the Rain
Snow White Huntsman
Star Trek Into Darkness combo
Star Wars Saga
21 Jump Street
Ultimate Matrix coll
X-Men First Class
X-Men Trilogy
X-Men Wolverine

 BLU-Ray for Family DVDs 
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
A Bug's Life
Chronicles of Narnia set
Harry Potter 1-8 collection
Iron Man 2 combo
Kung Fu Panda
Lord of the Rings Trilogy Pinocchio
Pirates of Caribbean trilogy
Pixar short films
Shrek the Whole Story
Sleeping Beauty
The Smurfs
Snow White & 7 Dwarfs
Star Trek motion pictures set
Star Trek TNG Season One
Star Wars Saga (1-6)
Toy Story combo
Toy Story 2 combo
Toy Story 3 combo
Wall-E SE


Search engine by FreeFind
Click to add search to YOUR web site!
click to search site

Alice in Wonderland
Beauty and the Beast
Kung Fu Panda
The Lion King
Mary Poppins 45th LE
Princess Mononoke
Shrek the Whole Story
Simpsons Movie
Spider-Man Trilogy
Spirited Away
Star Trek movies set
Star Trek TOS (TV)
ST:TNG complete tv set
Star Wars Trilogy (1-3)
Star Wars Trilogy (4-6)
Toy Story DVD combo
Toy Story 2 DVD combo
Toy Story 3 DVD combo
Wallace and Gromit
Wall-E SE

Buy Movie collectibles
TV/Movie Collectibles

movie review query engine

NY film critics online

Privacy Policy

Dead Man Walking
Starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn
Written and Directed by Tim Robbins

The back story: A teen couple drive into the woods late at night for some cuddling. A pair of drunken, high, bums with a gun force them out of the car, brutally rape and then stab the woman. Both teens are executed with a bullet to the back of the head.

Get alone. Get comfy. Get killed. It's the story of almost any Halloween movie, but in this case it is real. Sean Penn plays Poncelot, one of the murderers. He is poor, was assigned an inadequate lawyer, and was sentenced to die. His "partner" got a life sentence. What you see, with the exception of some time compression at the beginning, is the last week in his life.

Dead Man Walking is taken from the book by Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon), who answered a letter from the condemned, and agreed to counsel him as his execution approached. Cranky makes no comparison to Source material, so let's deal strictly with what is on screen.

Before Sarandon (as Prejean) makes first contact with Poncelot she is herself counseled by the resident priest at the prison facility. He seems more concerned that she does not wear a nun's habit, than with the fact that she is there to do what she perceives to be Christ's work. She in turn admits that she has no idea what she is getting herself into. Then she meets Poncelot who is, in no uncertain terms, a racist sexist unrepentant pig.

He needs help finding a lawyer to file an appeal for commutation of his Death Sentence to Life. She agrees to help, and when the details of an execution by injection are explained to her, she joins the anti-Death penalty activists. She works to get the sentence commuted.

Then she comes face to face with the families of the slain. Poncelot, in a television interview, goes on and on about how he admires Hitler. Prejean must deal with all this, and it becomes even harder as we realize (with the inevitable drawing ever closer) that she is falling in love with the pig.

I asked a lot of people if they saw it that way. Yes. Even Sarandon, the actress, has spoken about it that way. Love. You see it for yourself. You decide.

Prejean's instructions (given by the priest, up top) were to help Poncelot acknowledge and confess his sins, so that he could face judgment in Heaven. It is in the second half of the film that Penn's performance comes alive. His facade cracks and crumbles as the time of execution draws near. We learn the truth as tough talking felon becomes scared little kid, about to get the wood-shedding of his life.

I am not a Catholic. If I'm a bit off the mark theology-wise, well, I hope this is pretty close to what it is. For, by the end, the metaphors are flying fast and furious. Is it my misunderstanding, or did Christ die for our sins, not his sins? You'll understand my question when, in the final moments of his life, Poncelot is raised Crucifixion-like on his table to make final confession. For me, an incredibly mixed metaphor.

There is no question (at least for me) that this bastard deserves it. Tim Robbins set out to make a film that will put doubts into your mind about the fairness of the Death Penalty, to turn you against the process. But there is no doubt of Poncelot's guilt, as you will see as the film plays out.

Is Dead Man Walking . . .

Heavy handed? Yep.
Emotionally draining? Oh yeah.
Thought provoking? Perhaps.
Mind changing? Perhaps for you. Not for me.
Well acted? Definitely.

Dead Man Walking runs the gamut from heavy handed anti-death penalty preacher of a movie, to a finely acted, detailed portrait of a murderer and his nun. It is not a "bad" movie. It is not a "good" movie, in the traditional sense. It should be seen for Sarandon and Penn's acting, and if you do see it, please do so in a theatre. There is an emotional tension present that you cannot get if you watch the thing on a television. What struck me about Dead Man Walking was that (my) audience was filled with parents and their children (mostly 10 and up). The children did not squirm, or cry out, or talk. It is a transfixing event.

But I paid for it once, and now I never want to see it again.

For the first time since I've been rating movies based on ticket price, I have absolutely no idea where to place this one. So maybe Tim Robbins did succeed in some minor way with me. I was not upset or shocked, but I did walk out of the theater emotionally stunned ("drained" is how some people were referring to it).

If you can put a dollar amount on it, please do.

Click to buy films starring Tim Robbins
Click to buy films starring Susan Sarandon
Click to buy films starring Sean Penn

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.