Better Off Dead (1993)

TV Movie   |    |  Drama


Better Off Dead (1993) Poster

A lawyer fights a losing battle against the courts to overturn the death sentence for a convicted female robber/murderer despite demands from the woman that her death sentence be carried out.


6.5/10
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23 October 2002 | petershelleyau
Mare on death row
Executive produced by Gloria Steinem, Mare Winningham is Katherine Kit Kellner, a thief who is sent to the gas chamber for killing black police officer Jack Rollins, who had killed her boyfriend Delmore Davis (Don Harvey). Kit's initial plea to be killed is based on the idea that it won't happen because "nobody gets what they want", but ambitious prosecutor Cutter Daisy Dubuque (Tyra Ferrell) is appointed District Attorney for having Kit placed on death row. Ironically, it is Cutter, later a private attorney, who campaigns to appeal Kit's execution.

Wearing long brown hair, Winningham initially plays Kit as a nihilist clown, delighting in the group of skinheads at her trial, but in prison she has some extraordinary moments - in an over-medicated haze taking a cigarette in her mouth through bars, attacking Cutter when she admits convicting Kit was a mistake, pressing her hands against the glass of the prison interview room to connect with her mother, and breastfeeding her new born baby. On the latter Winningham scores a laugh with `This is like a nature movie'.

The teleplay by Marlane X Meyer, based on a story by Randy C Baer, focuses as much attention on Cutter as it does on Kit, before Cutter becomes Kit's attorney, so that we have to wait for the connection. Cutter's initial idea of appeal based on Kit as a person `too damaged for rehabilitation' presents Kit's childhood with a neo-Nazi father, but this plot thread is left dangling. Cutter also gets a laugh line to Kit in `In prison you had an affair and I can't get a date'.

Director M Neeme Barnette gets carried with technique - jump cuts, dissolves, slow motion, noise on the soundtrack, repeated footage as flashbacks, interrupting Winningham, black and white video camera footage, and rapid editing - but she makes a dramatic change of tone work, by making proceedings very moving.

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Drama

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