Film Review: An Eye for an Eye

Dead Man Talking here, and horrific as his crimes are, through the power of the film and the most basic kind of love, you are made to feel for him.
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Texan Mark Stroman became the perpetrator of the first post-9/11 hate crime in his state when, inflamed by the attack on America, he murdered three men he believed to be of Muslim descent. Israeli filmmaker Ilan Ziv makes the tough choice to chronicle this killer’s time on death row, as he awaits execution.

An Eye for an Eye, tough to take as it is—with nigh unbearable-to-listen-to audiotape of the murder being committed—turns out to be one of the most searingly honest and moving depictions of redemption and the power of forgiveness ever made. Although from the most troubled of backgrounds, bearing a swastika tattoo and deeply rooted in the kind of bigotry and violent ignorance—taken to its furthest extreme—which seem to frighteningly inform many of the supporters of this year’s GOP candidate, Stroman admitted to being deeply remorseful over his crimes. And damn if, even riddled with skepticism in most such cases, you don’t believe him.

You, or should I say I, and Ziv, as it turns out, aren’t the only ones. Unbelievably, one of Stroman’s biggest supporters to stay his execution was one of his victims: Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi man partially blinded in the attack, publicly forgave him and went even further by spearheading a legal campaign to commute his sentence. His interviews are a near-miraculous revelation of unfathomable human goodness, and although Ziv cannot resist the urge to try to attempt a suspenseful “Will he or won’t he fry?” time-ticking denouement for his film, this cheesiness is effectively countered by the pure, heartfelt emotion of Bhuiyan’s words, as well as survivors of both the dead victims and, as it turned out, Stroman.

I could have done with a lot less of Stroman’s frankly lousy doggerel poetry—“I was white trash/just another junkie/that’s why they assigned me a two-bit flunky/and I knew at first glance that I did not stand a chance”—but the man himself, as much as one hates to admit it, impresses. Bathed in a kind of uncanny personal key light, as many born-again proselytizers seem to be, as much as an inked-out hot mess as he is, there is also a transcendent handsomeness and oozing sincerity about him as he plainly states his case and new being. Almost ridiculously, watching him sorrowfully speaking to loved ones or pleading for his life, with his shaved head and burning eyes I was somehow reminded of Falconetti as Dreyer’s Joan of Arc.

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