Sean Penn gives a chilling and mesmerising portrayal of sociopathy, as Matthew Poncelet, a trailer trash multiple killer on death row with no sense of remorse.
His sparring partner is Susan Sarandon, in an Oscar-winning performance as Sister Helen Prejean, the real-life Catholic nun who became Poncelet’s spiritual adviser during his final countdown, and whose book about the experience was the inspiration for the film.
Sarandon’s nun is a sort of social worker with faith, whose sexually charged chats with Penn, and her meetings with his family and the families of his victims, take us into the heart of the debate about capital punishment.
Despite the horrific crimes he is accused of, the nun decides to help him confront his imminent execution.
Writer/Director Tim Robbins’s refusal to make a clear judgement on the issue is frustrating, some may say perverse.
Sister Helen Prejean
Raymond J Barry
R Lee Ermey
Mary Beth Percy