CINEMA: GAS PAINS

DEATH-ROW CHAT TRIES TO LIVEN UP THE CHAMBER

Ever since Jodie Foster faced off against Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs, Hollywood has been in love with the image of imperiled Good staring down incarcerated Evil. Just Cause, Copycat and Dead Man Walking all exploit a dramatic tension that is both elemental and cost-efficient; it requires only a bare room and an actor able to summon some malefic grandeur.

The Chamber, John Grisham's 1994 novel about a young lawyer trying to save his racist murderer of a grandfather from being gassed by the state of Mississippi, has at its heart such a confrontation. The book's 676 pages...

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