Ron Lax is the defence lawyer for three teenage boys who have been found guilty of murdering three young boys in the woods of West Memphis, Arkansas. Through his work and the conversations he has with Pam Hobbs, one of the dead children’s mothers, Ron finds that there could be more to the deaths than the authorities believe is true. But will his work be enough to convince the jury and also the baying mob of the small town situated in the Bible Belt?
So much has been written, spoken and actioned about this true life case, and so much more will continue for decades to come. We have had a HBO documentary trilogy (Paradise Lost) and another documentary produced by Peter Jackson (West Of Memphis). Yet Devil’s Knot focuses on only one angle of the entire case; it keeps its vision clearly focussed on the lawyer at the centre of this huge trail. The problem is that when you have seen all the other documentaries and films on the subject the entire being of Devil’s Knot is pretty pointless.
Whilst everything is going on around the three boys on trail, the film decides to keep very tight focus just on the lawyer and one mother. For vast portions of time we are missing out on the moments that are the most riveting and intriguing to the case. Instead director Atom Egoyan’s work on keeping it just to one area feels like we are the one’s standing outside of the inner circle. There is nothing to grip onto and make us want to know more. In fact, if we had not have seen the documentaries the chances are we would have been even more on the outside. It’s only knowing the real time line that helps you understand at what point the movie is currently at.
Firth is running through the motions. There is nothing to make his character standout or that we even cared about him helping those on trail. It’s not Firth’s fault, it’s more down to the film using the wrong people to work as their central characters. Reese Witherspoon dowds down for this role. Plump and dishevelled yet with the same problems as Firth’s character. There isn’t enough there to keep us wanting her to succeed.
Devil’s Knot looks and feels like a Saturday afternoon TV movie. The real life case is filled with angles that a film could have taken, but here it misses the point of making the movie in the first place. Our recommendation would be to watch the HBO documentaries instead of this lacklustre effort.