Devil's Knot

Production Year: 2013
Release Date: 06/10/2014
Studio: Image Entertainment

Devil's Knot is based upon three murders that took place in West Memphis, Arkansas. The trial was heavily televised in the area and documented in an extremely popular series of films titled Paradise Lost, Paradise Lost 2 - Revelations, and Paradise Lost 3 - Purgatory. I happened to catch the documentaries as they aired on HBO and I've always had a modest interest in the case. While the Paradise Lost films are some of the most compelling crime related documentaries I've ever seen, it disappoints me to say Devil's Knot could not  meet the standard set by those documentaries.

The film follows the trials of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin from the perspective of the grieving Pam Hobbs (Reese Witherspoon) and private investigator Ron Lax (Colin Firth). Lax lends his services to Echols and Baldwin hoping to help the two avoid the death penalty. While his character initially latched onto the case in hopes of helping the teenagers avoid the death penalty, he slowly becomes convinced of the boy's innocence due to the misinformation and lack of solid evidence in the trial.

On the other side of the fence is Pam Hobbs, her son Steve was one of the three slain children. It's clear that while at first she believes the three teenagers guilty, she soons suspects otherwise. From here you're probably familiar with the rest of the story. With the subject and intense trials one would think the story would lend itself to film rather easily. Unfortunately with Devil's Knot that isn't really the case. Surprising as the film has a few great actors in the mix along with a competent director, however some scenes have a total TV-movie vibe.

Colin Firth's portrayal of Ron Lax was really the only character that didn't bother me. Everyone else seemed bland (Witherspoon) or over the top (Kevin Durand as John Mark Byers). It's a pity that the production could not come together and deliver a worthy story, especially considering the means they had to work with. Unfortunately this seems less like a film you'd see at the theater and more like a production you'd catch on Lifetime during some solemn afternoon.

The Making of Devil's Knot (06:56) - A pretty basic making of featuring the director of the film along with the author of the book Devil's Knot, Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth make brief appearances.

Getting Into Character:  The Cast of Devil's Knot (07:47) - Witherspoon, Firth, Moyer (John Fogleman), and Nivola (Terry Hobbs) discuss their characters and the research involved.  I'm disappointed that Kevin Durand didn't show up to discuss his over the top portrayal of John Mark Byers.

Deleted Scenes (05:42) - Two deleted scenes, neither really add much to the film though the latter of the two features an interview with John Byers which is somewhat entertaining.

Whether you are firmly for or against the three teenagers convicted of the crime one thing is certain, everything with this case was handled poorly. Evidence disappeared, loose ends were never tied up, and some suspects were never questioned properly. It's a prime example of an uneven trial, one that has been the subject of some great documentaries. Unfortunately the same can't be said for Devil's Knot, it's an often mundane and overall forgettable film.