If you like your comedies as black as espresso brewed at midnight, Judge Brett Cullum has just the flick for you.
From death row…to fatal attraction!
Anyone in the mood for a black comedy? Love Comes to the Executioner is about a college graduate (Jonathan Tucker, Pulse) who finds out his degree in classical languages is worthless in his small town where his ex-porn star mother (Christine Ebersole, Amadeus) lives. Yet she needs him to help battle her life-threatening alcoholism, and so he accepts a position in a local prison as a "closer." He teaches Latin classes to inmates, but he also serves as the guy who completes killing prisoners on death row. To make matters worse, his own brother (Jeremy Rinner, North Country) is incarcerated and awaiting execution. Then he falls in love with the only woman (Ginnifer Goodwin, Mona Lisa Smile) on the longest mile who happens to be the paramour of his doomed brother. So what happens when his new job suddenly gets very personal?
Love Comes to the Executioner was a film festival darling that never truly got a full theatrical release, probably because it sounds like a hard sell. Capital punishment hardly seems the right material for comedy, but Love Comes to the Executioner isn't concerned with the morality of the situation. Instead it seeks the immorality of laughing at death and crime. Rarely do you see comedy films that have as much dialogue as this one without the name Woody Allen attached. It could be a stage play instead of a screenplay, and many of the exchanges are whip smart and well crafted. For example every character has a Serbian name that means something else entirely, such as "silencer" or "boogeyman." This is one comedy that wears its highbrow bent proudly and without apology.
The whole thing springs from the mind of writer and director Kyle Bergersen, who seems to have only one other movie to his name. The Stigmata was a 1995 feature about a blind girl in need of a miracle, who only gets bleeding palms instead of any relief from her affliction. Yes, he definitely seems willing to claim the title Mr. Sick Puppy. What he handles nicely with Love Comes to the Executioner is keeping the characters smart and the situations stupid. There's a scene where a killing goes wrong and the prisoner runs around the room flailing until he is impaled by a priest. It sounds dreadful, but it has the right absurd energy to both horrify and amuse in equal doses. Like any great black comedy, it skillfully blurs the line between morbid and funny, to the point that the difference is indistinguishable.
The DVD from Velocity Entertainment does the film justice in a strange way. The transfer is not anamorphic, but this doesn't detract considering the movie is more dialogue driven than concerned with picture composition. It should fit perfectly in your 16:9 television without distortion. The color palette is muted and earthy, and the DVD does well rendering the dirty environment while keeping flesh tones true. Audio can either be stereo or surround depending on your preference. Included are great interviews with the cast, outtakes, and a trailer gallery.
If you can stomach the idea of a black comedy about putting prisoners to death, then Love Comes to the Executioner is a perfectly smart independent film that should amuse without insulting your intelligence. The screenplay bravely goes places most comedies would never dare, and contains witty twists you won't see coming. It's well acted, well produced, and funny. Just don't let the fact the subject is so damn distasteful scare you away, because Love Comes to the Executioner has a fable-like quality that makes it palatable.
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