Dead Man Walking - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Dead Man Walking Reviews

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Super Reviewer
April 17, 2015
A daring, objective and thought-provoking drama that inspires us to reflect on such medieval practice and discuss it for hours straight, even if it also respects those who are in favor, and it has two magnificent and greatly nuanced performances by Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon.
Super Reviewer
½ February 9, 2012
A soapy, longwinded drama that simply is not the moving film that warrants the praise it received. Directed by cold cocking activist Tim Robbins, his longtime partner Susan Sarandon playing the lead of Helen Prejean, and also starring Sean Penn as a fearless convict, this film bleeds for the cause of human life. This film, though moving at times, is so slanted and nauseating that the performances come off as forced and irrationally concise. It's not that the performances were bad. To the contrary, for what the movie was and for what it was obviously trying to convey, the performances were sappy enough to work. Though the film is formulaic and borderline obvious at best, it was based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean who visited and held religious counsel for Matthew Poncelet, who had murdered two people with an accomplice in cold blood. I can't fault the film for taking such sensitive subject matter and making a complex dynamic between Helen's guilt at giving Matthew religious salvation when his crimes were so abhorrent, and having the family shun her for it. Sarandon's performance is far more human than expected, as she herself is not the perfect saint or unconventional nun with an authoritative air, who always appears in these kinds of human interest films. Penn got on my nerves a bit, only because he tries to play up the convict's vulnerability to the umpth degree, and though the film is trying to show that the death penalty is wrong, and everyone is allowed their salvation, it was so schmaltzy and fake that it was only the ending that saved this film. The profile of the convict, the interviews with the families by Sister Prejean, and the feeling of the film made it a bit of a blight for emotional heart pulling films. Though it was a disappointing film for me personally, it was great to see Sarandon in such a human role.
Super Reviewer
November 2, 2011
In his second turn as a director, Tim Robbins, along with longtime partner Susan Sarandon, a bunch cof his extended family, and tons of other notable names all got together to create this: a film adaptation based on a work by Sister Helen Prejean, a nun who has spent time counseling deathrow inmates. The film soimplifies the story and focuses on Helen as she coems to know and try to help Matthew Poncelet a composite of 2-3 real life figues. Matthew (in the film) is on death row for kidnapping, then brutally raping and murdering a boy and girl out near some lover's lane somewhere along with a friend of his.

The film follows Sister Helen as she tries to help Matthew get an appeal or a lesser sentence, feeling that, though he may be guilty, he isn't deserving of the death penalty. Yes, the film does ultimately have a bias concerning capital punishment, but it also presents mutltiple and well developed viewpoints of the issue, and makes a good case for both. It does have it's bias, but it is also more subtle than I expected it to be. I figured it would be very blunt and bludgeon the audience of the head with it's message a la The Life of David Gale (which now that I think about it may not be quiote as good as I originally thought).

Given the well know npolitical views and activism of Penn, Robbins, and Sarandon, I was surprised with how the film ultimately treated the issues at hand, and am very thankful for how itr all ended up. Yes, it gets a bit heavy handed here and there, but it's hard to fault it too much since it's all done so well. The film doesn't make Matthew totally symapthetic, but it does humanize him, and the concluding scenes are very moving.

I had a personal moment of joy when I realized that the song playing during the big climax as Matthew is being led to the execution room was a version of a song I sang with my choir back in high schhol. I believe it's a Swedish funeral march, but I can't remember.

Okay, that little diversion aside, this is a very moving, thought provoking, and sensible cinematic treatment of a touchy subject. It isn't completely cliche free, but it is far more fresh than I was figuring it might be, and the performances are just wonderful. Sarandon won an Oscar, and Penn was nominated, and both are incredible. They bring a lot of depth to their roles, and play them very realistically. To support them are people such as R. Lee Ermey, Robert Prosky, Raymond J. Barry, and even Jack Black. All of them and the rest do a fine job fleshing out their various characters and giving life to people who, for various reasons, have strong opinions on capital punishment, and it's hard to really take sides because they all make you feel for them.

I'm torn on the rating, so let's be kind and give it somewhere between a 4 and 4 1/2. This is a very stirring and emotional drama that raises good questions, answers some, but leaves it up to the viewer to really decide what it should be. Given the material, that's all I could ask for, because this is an issue where it's best to leave it open (ultimately) because it's such a slippery slope. You should give this a watch.
Super Reviewer
½ May 25, 2011
Like walking the last mile yourself, Tim Robbins' elegantly told tale of a convicted murderer's last days in the company of an interested stranger, a nun, deeply resonates whether you'd like it to or not. Deserved accolades for this one, and each one earned.
Super Reviewer
May 8, 2011
There are times when I feel that I must say that a movie is not just a movie, and that this movie is real. Dead Man Walking surprised me in every way and I did not find myself bored by it's running time and slow pace. This is the type of film where is could have the slowest scenes in cinema to date, but still have the effectiveness of greatness. This film has a gut-wrenching story, the performances are miraculous, and the outcome will have you rooting for every character. This is the story about a man in prison due to murder, while a nun is doing her best to protect him while she tries to comfort the lives of the families who he has taken lives from. This is as perplexed as a film can get these days, and it is beautiful. Dead Man Walking is far more than just a true-to-life film, but an emotional thrill ride that, in my eyes, is a triumphant masterpiece!
Super Reviewer
November 24, 2007
Overly drawn-out, precious film that, if not for its affecting ending would border on unwatchable. The shots are unoriginal, the short takes are jarring and poorly edited, and unfortunately, Susan Sarandon bored the hell out of me. (Sean Penn was very good, but 15 years later, it's clear how much better he's gotten since.)

This film is a curious artifact from that awkward faux-southern-gothic period in the 90s when John Grisham's career was taking off and Bruce Springsteen was working with "the other band"... and by the way, though the titular song worked for Philadelphia and, over a decade later, The Wrestler, here it was just another ho-hum number on the soundtrack of a movie that used virtually no music. It wasn't gripping enough to get by without.

The film picks up in its last half hour, but overall the dialogue crawls along, exposing way too much, and many of the scenes are hardly relevant: instead of showing us what's going on, Robbins uses the characters to tell us, and the result is a film that's dreary and no fun to watch. Huge letdown - I've wanted to see this since I was a teenager, and I'm glad I found it at the library for free; had I seen it in theatres, I'd probably still be complaining about having wasted the money.
Super Reviewer
April 26, 2009
Cast: Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Raymond J. Barry, Robert Prosky, R. Lee Ermey, Scott Wilson, Celia Weston, Lois Smith, Roberta Maxwell, Margo Martindale, Barton Heyman, Nesbitt Blaisdell, Larry Pine, Peter Sarsgaard

Director: Tim Robbins

Summary: Scheduled to be put to death for brutally slaying two teens, Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) seeks the aid of activist nun Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon), a death-penalty opponent. She becomes Matthew's spiritual adviser and tries to halt the execution, even though Matthew's professed innocence is dubious. As the execution date draws ever closer, Sister Helen works to save Matthew's soul by getting him to confess -- and to ask divine forgiveness.

My Thoughts: "Of course Sean Penn would play the part so well, that he could make you feel some sort of sympathy for a murdering rapist. Such good acting from him and Susan Sarandon. They were really great together in this film. The film had me crying off and on throughout it. It's a very emotional film. You get to see both sides of the story. The two families who children were killed and raped and are looking for justice with the death penalty, a family trying to come to terms with losing a son, a brother to the death penalty, and a nun who's faith and heart is shaken by the whole ordeal. But what I liked most about the film is that it doesn't take sides. You see both stories and it lets you choose for yourself. But I think the film is more about coming to terms with what you do in life and accepting and acknowledging your faults and of course forgiving yourself and asking for forgiveness. A story of redemption. Definitely a film that is thought provoking."
Super Reviewer
November 18, 2009
One of the best films of the 90's, with heartbreaking performances from both Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, coupled with a story that feels so incredibly real thanks to its careful plotting and fabulous execution. Director Robbins also shows his skill for combining the past and present to perfection, and he slams you with an ending that should really tear you up. Sean Penn, as I've said before, is one of the best actors working in Hollywood today, and this is his finest turn yet. He's utterly remarkable here, as well as Sarandon, who arguably gives the best performance in the film as a conflicted nun who doesn't want to be "taking sides", rather sympathizing with everybody involved in this heinous act - sadly she discovers that just isn't possible. An emotionally trying movie, due to Robbins' ability to humanize his "monstrous" character, as well as being able to correctly examine the other side's pain as well.
Super Reviewer
½ March 26, 2007
Directed by Tim Robbins, an emotionally charged storyline tackling the controversial subject of Capital Punishment, shown through the eyes of the Victim's families, the murderer's family, the prison guards, the murderer and the Nun who is there to help him until his execution date arrives.

An underestimated role for Penn I feel, who played a really believable role (particularly in the final scenes) as did Sarandon, who seemed to be so natual in this role.
Super Reviewer
½ October 13, 2007
Not bad, but nothing new. Preformances were good, but I prefer Capote which was basically the same story.
Super Reviewer
January 28, 2009
Being a conservative and in high support of the death penalty I was not so sure that I would come out of this movie liking it...

However, Sean Penn for me won me over. He done a great job and out of him and Saradon I personally think it should of been him to win the award. The guy is impressive in every role he plays. He was very convincing through out this entire film. It's very well acted by all parties.

The movie itself turned out to be a truly emotional film - that even had me questioning what was "right in wrong" morally and politically. It takes you over the emotional rollercoaster not just from one side - showing how crime and the death penalty affects all party involved.

Coming out of the movie I still found myself a supporter of the death penalty but I gained much respect for those who face there justice with dignity and to those who must run the process.

This is an amazing film that anyone pro active or against the death penalty should consider checking out.
Super Reviewer
½ January 6, 2009
For me it was too slow and quite boring. Moreover, the storyline and its execution wasn't appealing enough. IMO, it deserves a miss.
Super Reviewer
December 13, 2008
"Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon Are BRILLIANT!"
Based on the true story written by Sister Helen Prejean, she tells the true story of HER and her jouney with Matthew Poncelet. She wrote a novel about her befriending a prisoner whose on death row for murdering and raping two teen lovers six years ago. Poncelet claims to be inncocent and some way, Sister Helen beleives Matthew in every way possible. The story is about and written by Sister Helen Prejean. The movie starred Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen Prejean and Sean Penn as Matthew Poncelet.

The movie is probably one of the most powerful and downright amazing films i've ever seen. Plus the whole true story thing makes you even more into the movie. We'll for me it was that way.

Susan Sarandon won an acadamy award for her role as Sister Helen Prejean. She definatly deserved it! She was amazing! All her scenes were powerful and right off the bat amazing. We'll done! Sean Penn although did not win a fancy award. But i think he deserved one as well. His role was just as amazing and powerful as Susan's was and they both did a facinating job. From both characters you'll expect just about anything you can imagine.

The plot was just great. The movie kept me watching and i was just pissed off when the movie ended because i just wanted to see more of Sister Helen Prejean's story. It was just amazing! The movie obviously's good considering i've said amazing about six times already. lol.

Tim Robbins directs this movie and he does a wonderful job [Yes! I didnt say amazing], the movie is not a dissapointment. Rent it, if yea ever get the chance.

All and all, this is one of my new favorite movies. Its got twists, amazing powerful scenes, a great ending, EVERYTHING that perfect movie needs. This movie is definatly going in my top ten favorite. Thats how wonderful this is!
Super Reviewer
May 3, 2007
Very emotional and gripping story, with some Oscar-worthy performances by Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, even though I normally consider Sarandon somewhat of a boring actress. The movie is generally a bit slow-paced, but thanks to the top notch acting and brilliant screenplay, it works for the better as it gives you time to get to know the characters and care about them. Also, the ending was very unexpected, which just adds to its greatness by being very anti-cliché and believable. With all these things in mind, it's no stretch to call this one of the best dramas of the 90's. It's also one of extremely few movies out there that has actually made me cry. So if you haven't seen it yet, make sure you do!
Super Reviewer
September 8, 2007
So overrated
Super Reviewer
July 15, 2007
Drama about a man on death row. Some disturbing content.
Super Reviewer
July 2, 2007
A movie meant to show how brutal capital punishment is. Susan Sarandan plays a nun visiting Sean Penn on Death Row. It's a bit shocking and sad, but they try to balance things by flashing back to the brutal crime which got the bastard there. The end execution was difficult to watch.
Super Reviewer
½ January 20, 2012
"Thank you for loving me." A great movie with fantastic performances from Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. By the end of the movie, you'll have formed a definitive take on the death penalty and forgiveness. Dead Man Walking is about a Mathew Poncelot (played by the great Sean Penn) who is on death row for the murder and rape of two teenagers. He reaches out to a nun, Sister Helen Prejean (played by Sarandan) to ease his pain for the coming weeks before he is executed. This film reminded me a lot of The Green Mile, one of my favorite movies. It's amazing how director Tim Robbins can turn your thoughts around and actually make you feel sorry for the "bad guy." I thought Dead Man Walking was an emotional powerhouse of a story with wonderful execution (no pun intended) by director Tim Robbins.
Super Reviewer
½ February 2, 2008
Yeah I don't know. We're supposed to like these films aren't they..and yet you can pretty much figure out what you're going to get before seeing the film. Gret Sarandon performance..check. Great Penn performance...check. A great cause highlighted by Robbins...check. It won Oscars. It doesn't need my gushing praise.
Super Reviewer
July 7, 2010
It's an effective argument against the death penalty and one that does not entirely invalidate the opposing point of view. Penn and Sarandon give two truly powerful performances.
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