It's a risky proposition when a real life event that has been examined over and over again, especially in four separate documentary films gets adapted into a piece of narrative entertainment. "Devil's Knot" tries to put us into this horrible tragedy in small town America but loses some emotional weight as it tries to give us too many facts.
When three boys were brutally murdered in the community of West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1993, their deaths led to outrage in this tightly knit religious town. It wasn't long before three teenagers were arrested, tried, and sentenced; two of them to life imprisonment and one to death despite the fact that the evidence did quite add up while they maintained their innocence.
Inspired by the story of the West Memphis Three case, this fictionalized look at these characters stories provides an interesting slant to the lore of this story but ultimately feels off. It's very much a film about self discovery and as the characters perspective changes so does ours as viewers because we are simply off balance as none of the characters in this narrative really have any direction yet they are all to varying degrees trying to discover the truth. Director Atom Egoyan seemingly spends a little too long laying out the case while the screenplay by Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson just didn't do enough to develop characters that we genuinely care about and it all felt more than a little flat. True crime just doesn't always play as well as it should and it comes off as very forced. It played more like a poor episode of Law & Order rather than the story of a town coming to grips with the mystery around this horrible tragedy.
A strong lead performance by the always brilliant Colin Firth as our investigator who sees the mistakes and miscarriages of justice pile up in front of him and is powerless to do anything about it. He brings a combination of strength and hopelessness as it mirrors Reese Witherspoon's grieving mother who only wants answers. Sadly no one else in the ensemble gets a chance to stand out as none of this cast of characters is all that interesting despite being overloaded with familiar faces like Dane DeHaan, Mirelle Enos, Bruce Greenwood and many many others.
"Devil's Knot" isn't a great film as it strays a little too far, forgetting to build a compelling story leaning to hard on facts and exposition, but if it sparks an audience to see the excellent documentaries on this subject, then it has done its job.
2 out of 5 stars.
Special features on this DVD include only the theatrical trailer.
"Devil's Knot" is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray, On Demand and Digital Download from most major providers and retailers.