Picks and Pans Review: Shot in the Heart

UPDATED 10/15/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 10/15/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT

HBO (Sat., Oct. 13, 9 p.m. ET)

Gary Gilmore spent more than half of his 36 years in one prison or another before a firing squad shot him through the heart in Salt Lake City in 1977. In the months before he was put to death for two cold-blooded killings, Gilmore was a celebrity. For one thing, his was to be the first execution in the country in a decade. The convict, who proved to be surprisingly articulate (even mediagenic), insisted on the sentence being carried out.

To his youngest brother, rock journalist Mikal Gilmore, fell the task of deciding whether the family would petition for a stay of execution or let Gary follow his own course to oblivion. In a few death-row meetings, Mikal, after struggling for years to distance himself from his family's grossly dysfunctional past, at last began to know this unknowable man.

Based on Mikal Gilmore's memoir, this movie just can't seem to get the brothers' tortured, tenuous relationship in focus. The sepia flashbacks of the Gilmores' wretched childhood are dramatically limp. Giovanni Ribisi plays Mikal with a bit too much quaking intensity. Elias Koteas's Gary is thuggish, more Raging Bull than raving maniac.

Bottom Line: Brother, where art thou?

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