Friday means movies are opening, which means movie reviews! Today we cover a Werner Herzog documentary about capital punishment and an Adam Sandler movie about plain old regular punishment.
One of the pleasures of watching Werner Herzog's documentaries -- whether he's telling the story of a man obsessed with bears or exploring Antarctica -- is that he always seems to be discovering the world right alongside you. He seems to endeavor on a project without any particular agenda beyond getting the lay of the land, and he goes about this seemingly unafraid of taking narrative detours or wandering into strange tangents. He seems genuinely, almost boyishly, fascinated by his subjects. He maybe insinuates himself into the scene a bit too often, an unfortunate hallmark of less artistically minded documentarians like Michael Moore or [shudder] Morgan Spurlock, but still his nonfiction films always resonate with that same awe of organic revelation. He had no idea! But now, thanks to him, we all know.
But in his latest documentary, Into the Abyss, he begins with the slightest of theses already in place. The film is a look at the death penalty, and at the crater left behind by violent crime, through the lens of a particular murder, or murders, that took place in Conroe, Tex., in 2001. On October 24th of that year, two young men named Jason Burkett and Michael Perry shot and killed three people: 50-year-old Sandra Stotler, her 17-year-old son Adam, and his friend Jeremy Richardson, 18. The two boys were after a newly purchased fire red Camaro that was parked in the Stotlers' garage. This was not part of some sadistic ritual or drug mania. It was a simple, stupid robbery gone horribly awry. Burkett received a life sentence with possibility of parole in 2041, while Perry was sent to death row. That is where Herzog finds him nine years later, in the summer of 2010, when he is eight days away from execution.