On Death Row: Conversation with James Barnes (2012)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Werner Herzog apparently took the subject matter of capital punishment to heart because after filming INTO THE ABYSS, the filmmaker decided to do another film. ON DEATH ROW features the director interviewing four different people currently on death row. This first episode interviews James Barnes, a Florida man who was given a life sentence for killing his wife but while in prison he admitted to another murder, which ended up putting him on death row. If you're familiar with the work of Herzog then you know what to expect but this documentary is a little bit different because there's really none of that "Herzog style" that you'd expect. Instead this is a pretty straight-forward interview. He talks to Barnes about his hopes for the future, the crimes and he even gets him to talk about two additional unsolved murders. Herzog also talks to the man who put Barnes on death row and even Barnes' sister is interviewed to talk about their troubled childhood. In one of the most memorable moments Herzog passes on a message to Barnes that his father sent. This first episode in the series is certainly a very entertaining film, although I'd say it comes well short of what INTO THE ABYSS was able to do. It's interesting just hearing from a killer like this and hearing his thoughts on the wide range of subjects. Of course, Herzog asks all the right questions and even some that you wouldn't expect to hear.
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