Dead Man Walking | Chicago Reader

Dead Man Walking

Rated R 120 minutes 1996

Tim Robbins's second feature as a writer-director (1995), adapted from Sister Helen Prejean's autobiographical book of the same title, has its awkward and square moments directorially, but it's also uncommonly honest and serious—rare enough qualities these days—and its two powerful lead performances (Susan Sarandon as Prejean and Sean Penn as a rapist and killer she's trying to save in more ways than one) are ample reason to see the picture. Not the simple polemic against capital punishment one might have expected, this works very hard to see and even honor the viewpoint of the victims' families, and ultimately respects the audience to make up its own mind. It's a film about hatred on both sides of the law—the kind of subject Samuel Fuller has often dealt with—and it doesn't kowtow to easy effects or platitudes.

Film Credits

Director: Tim Robbins

Writer: Helen Prejean and Tim Robbins

Producer: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Rudd Simmons, Tim Robbins and Jon Kilik

Cast: Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Robert Prosky, Raymond Barry, R. Ermey, Celia Weston, Lois Smith, Scott Wilson and Roberta Maxwell

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