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Upon taking a new job, young lawyer Rick Hayes is assigned to the clemency case of Cindy Liggett, a woman convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death. As Hayes investigates the background for her case, the two begin to form a deep friendship, while all the while the date for her execution draws nearer.Written by
Jonathan Broxton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Great spin on the old dabate over capital punishment
In case you're wondering, yes, "Last Dance" is clearly a film against capital punishment. But what makes it interesting is how it does not dwell on the morality of whether it's right or wrong to execute convicted criminals, but rather it focuses on the corruption of human government which uses lives for political manipulation. Whether you're in favor of capital punishment or not, we can all agree that we shouldn't send people to their deaths just so someone can win an election, right? That's the core theme of this film. One prisoner may be pardoned--why?--not because he's worthy but simply because the public likes him and will vote for any politician who will pardon him. Another prisoner may not be so politically valuable, so he ends up behind the 8 ball.
With this approach in mind, "Last Dance" leads us through a nightmarish labyrinth of human justice where innocence and guilt have nothing to do with punishment. Sharon Stone plays "Cindy" a condemned killer who brutally murdered two people 12 years prior. What follows is not an issue of whether she deserves to live or die, but it's an issue of whether her fate should be determined by a small handful of powerful people with only their own interests in mind.
There's a great line from the movie where one character shirks his responsibility with: "It's just the system" and another character responds "we ARE the system." Without devolving into a cartoonish conspiracy thriller, this film takes a broad and disturbing look at the ongoing failure of human justice. It's reminiscent of Orson Welles' masterpiece "The Trial" in the way that it doesn't accuse any individual culprit but rather the entire collective "system" which seems to perpetuate itself simply by people refusing to take a stand.
While there's not a lot of action, it's definitely a roller-coaster as our hero Ricky (Rob Morrow) struggles to set things right. Don't expect a fast paced flick with car chases and evil villains on his tail. No, this is the real world, and the only villains are his bosses, colleagues and politicians who thwart his progress by simply doing what they do every day.
Excellent acting by Sharon Stone makes you connect with her even though you remain fully aware that she is a killer. There's one fantastic scene in particular where you feel her exasperation come to a boil. It expresses the exasperation of American citizens who are so sick of corruption that they're ready to give up. Meanwhile "Ricky" symbolizes the spirit of the individual who is ready to fight it to the end.
Directed by Bruce Beresford, known for the sentimental "Driving Miss Daisy", this film definitely knows how to tug at your emotions. But at the same time it doesn't lose itself in sappy melodrama.
If movies like this interest you, I highly recommend "Monster" and the accompanying documentary "Aileen Wurnos: Life and Death of a Serial Killer". If you like films that explore the failure of the court system and why it fails, definitely check out the grandfather of such films "12 Angry Men", a slow yet riveting film set entirely within 1 room as jurors expose their own prejudices & selfish interests while deciding the fate of a young boy on trial. Films like these are practically historical documents as well as highly powerful cinema.
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