Clemency

The opening of Clemency features a prison execution where Warden Bernadine Williams – played by Alfre Woodard – oversees a lethal injection where the killer has to endure several seconds of discomfort. The scene isn’t particularly interesting. It’s a surprise to learn later on that Warden Williams and her staff are considered to have “botched [that] last execution.” It’s even more puzzling to learn that Bernadine is now all troubled over the next contestant coming up from Death Row. How difficult can it be to properly film a really botched execution? The poor Cajun guy in The Green Mile ended up with his head on fire! But that’s just part of the general incompetency of Clemency, which includes the usually excellent Woodard being reduced to putting on a worse drunk act than any Southern sorority girl. The entire movie feels cheap, from the soap-opera sets to some seriously inept editing. Woodard is simply asked to mope around enough for the warden’s schoolteacher husband to finally whine about “living with an empty shell of a wife.” There’s a lot of dialogue like that, too. The script eventually makes a slight attempt at a subplot, but that simply falls apart because none of the characters acts like a human being.

[R]