Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review - Devil's Knot (Image Blu-ray) - The West Memphis Three Will Have Their Revenge on Arkansas

I remember first hearing about the West Memphis 3 and being pretty pissed off at middle America. When you're a young guy who's into some pretty off the wall shit, it's perfectly logical to be sympathetic to some kids from Arkansas who happened to be born in the wrong place, practice the wrong religion and be into the wrong music. So the first time you hear about them and their conviction you just get mad. Then I remember Pearl Jam doing a benefit show for them and raising awareness. I remember the Black Flag cover album dedicated to them. That resonated well with me, and I had a glimmer of hope. It would take some time for things to be set "right". I suppose it's as right as we're going to get for now, but I still have that sense of hope lurking in the back of my mind like a kid on Christmas waiting for the morning and presents. Devil's Knot is the fifth movie based on their Hell on Earth. Each movie has been a different perspective or account of this tale, and now we have a very well put together feature film with some grade A actors and an excellent narrative.

Synopsis from Image:

May 5, 1993. West Memphis, Arkansas. Three young boys playing in the nearby woods never come home for dinner. In the rush to find and convict the killers, police focus on a trio of teenagers suspected of devil worship. As the mother of one of the murdered boys (Witherspoon) tries to come to grips with this unspeakable tragedy, she is desperate to believe that the killers have been found and will be brought to justice. It is only when an investigator (Firth) reveals that the evidence doesn’t all add up, that the community is forced to face the reality that the true killer might still be out there. 

The strength of this movie is in the acting. The story really does speak for itself, but it's nice to have a direct narrative with a point of view attached to it. Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth are tremendous in their roles to the point that I was get anxious and ready to jump out of bed to drive to Arkansas to scream at people. Witherspoon will make you cry if you let her. She's always had me since Walk the Line though. Firth's intensity was really special in King's Speech, but he brings it to a personal level in Devil's Knot. We understand and are sympathetic to each character in the movie including the actors who played the "three". Of course you'll hate the prosecutor and the judge, but that's a given. That's history. 

I warn viewers ahead of time that while the violence is handled with the utmost care, this is a true and disturbing story. When you watch it, you will feel something. The movie may make you feel completely worthless for a time and if you have kids you'll hug 'em closer the next day for it. I suppose you only have to wade through the first thirty minutes or so before you enter the primary storyline which is the investigation of the "three" and the attempt to prove their innocence before their inevitable conviction. Once the court stuff kicks in you can be at ease that the worst of the emotional distress has passed until the end. 

This release features deleted scenes, a making of feature and a cast overview. The Blu-ray is delicious. The production value is high, so the disc looks great. It's a modern HD movie, so expect that. The Blu-ray is a combo disc with the DVD. 

You can order the Devil's Knot now. You'll be digging up Paradise Lost and its sequels before long, reading and rewatching clips on YouTube trying to understand a wrongful conviction. You'll want answers. In 1993 I was studying witchcraft and every other religion I could get my hands on (though the trend was Pagan at the time). I listened to Slayer; got my first tape South of Heaven that year. I remember when the Columbine shooting went down, how I walked into a Taco Bell in a trench coat and saw a number of people gather their kids to leave. Man, I couldn't have hurt a fly. I just wanted tacos. Maybe if I lived in Arkansas I wouldn't have been quite so lucky as to get a few Gorditas in me that day.

Note on the title of this piece: It's a middle American take on the Nirvana song Francis Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle. It just sounded cool. 

Oh and also, this is important after watching a movie featuring music by Slayer.

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