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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Shot in the Heart
Shot in the Heart
HBO // R // March 26, 2002
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Earl Cressey | posted April 12, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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Review:
Shot in the Heart

Movie:
Shot in the Heart, originally released on HBO in the later half of 2001, was directed by Agnieszka Holland. The film is based on the true story of Gary Gilmore and the book by the same title, written by Gary's brother, Mikal. Starring in the film are Giovanni Ribisi (Mikal Gilmore), Elias Koteas (Gary Gilmore), Eric Bogosian (Lawrence Schiller), Lee Tergesen (Frank Gilmore Jr.), Amy Madigan (Bessie Gilmore), and Sam Shepard (Frank Gilmore Sr.).

In 1976, the Supreme Court lifted its moratorium on the death penalty, which had remained in effect for more than ten years. That same year, Gary Gilmore had killed two men and had refused appeals that would delay his execution. Only a member of the Gilmore family could seek a stay of execution for him, and with only six days left before the scheduled date, Mikal goes to see his brother, whom he barely knew. Now, with time running out, Mikal must make a choice either to allow his brother to die as he wished or intervene by signing for a stay of execution.

Though the text extras on the DVD state that Gilmore's trial and execution were profound on sociological, criminal, and basic human levels, I had not heard of Gary Gilmore before watching the film. Yet in viewing it, I found his story to still be interesting and relevant from all those perspectives. Ribisi and Koteas do a great job as brothers trying to figure each other out, as they've spent most of their lives separated. However, because of this, it's hard to feel empathy for either character. Also, presumably as the film is set in Utah, the Mormon Church is mentioned several times, most of these unfavorable. The film takes the stance that Gary felt he needed to be executed by firing squad so his blood would spill onto the ground and this act would grant him a chance at forgiveness. This belief is called blood atonement and the film claims that early Mormons practiced this. In reality, though, this is entirely rumor and no evidence of it is found in Mormon literature or doctrine. The film also leads one to believe Mormons, as a group, are very superstitious and believe in curses, which is entirely untrue. Still, if you can ignore this, Shot in the Heart is a decent film that explores the relationship between two people in different circumstances with different beliefs bound by blood.

Picture:
Shot in the Heart is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer is clean throughout, with only some minor specks appearing infrequently and some slight grain. Colors are natural throughout, flesh tones are accurate, and blacks are rich and detailed.

Sound:
Shot in the Heart is presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround in English and Dolby 2.0 Stereo in Spanish. The film is almost entirely dialogue driven, and as such, there's not much going on other than that. Background noises and the film's music both sound great. Dialogue throughout is clean with no distortion. Optional subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish.

Extras:
Shot in the Heart has two really interesting text extras: The Gary Gilmore Story and a biography for Mikal Gilmore. These two extras really help flesh out the story in more detail for those interested in learning more about the events surrounding Gary's execution.

Other extras include a text excerpt from the book, a selection of eight pieces of art by Gary Gilmore, a selection of five Gilmore family photos, brief biographies for the cast and director, and a text explanation by Mikal of why certain songs were chosen for inclusion in the film.

Summary:
While not without its flaws, Shot in the Heart is one of the better HBO films I've seen recently. HBO has provided a great presentation for the film, as well as some terrific extras, so those interested in learning more about Gary Gilmore and his effect on America in the late 70's should give it a rent.

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