At its simplest, this movie is about a reporter, Steve Everett (Clint Eastwood), trying to save convicted murderer Frank Beachum (Isaiah Washington) from being put to death.
Obviously, Everett has a reason for thinking that Beachum is innocent of the crime of killing a pregnant store clerk. But regardless of Beachum's guilt or innocence, there are only two ways a movie like this can end: With Beachum getting the needle, or not. This doesn't exactly provide much suspense.
The plausibility of this story is shoddy anyway. Beachum is black, and apparently Steve Everett is the only guy in California willing to make it his personal mission to save this guy's ass. Furthermore, we're supposed to believe that only Everett can find the evidence Beachum needs to prove his innocence. There must be nine million anti-death-penalty fanatics swarming over California. Some high schools even offer special classes in freeing death row inmates. Eastwood's really going to try to convince us that he's a man alone when it comes to caring about Frank's plight?
Naturally, this film raises issues about the death penalty, the possibility of killing an innocent man, and the ease with which it might actually happen. Personally, I've already become desensitized to this issue, having seen "Dead Man Walking" and "Last Dance," plus that fake film in "The Player" supposedly starring Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts. But I've also seen several episodes of Jerry Springer, which make it plain as day that we need to be giving more people the needle, not fewer.
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