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Review: Into the Abyss

Werner Herzog turns to the abyss of capital punishment
By PETER KEOUGH  |  November 9, 2011
3.5 3.5 Stars

From the abyss of time in Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Werner Herzog turns to the abyss of capital punishment in today's America. He focuses on the case of Michael Perry, executed for a 2001 triple murder days after Herzog interviewed him, and Perry's accomplice Jason Burkett, serving a life sentence. Unlike Paradise Lost or The Thin BlueLine, Herzog takes for granted that the two are guilty, and in his interviews tries to understand why they killed, with mixed results, because both maintain their innocence. But like In Cold Blood and A Short Film About Killing, the film doesn't shy from showing the heinousness of the crime, detailed by an investigating officer and illustrated by police videos. This makes more powerful the testimony of the survivors, especially Lisa Stotler-Balloun, whose mother and brother were victims. Far from inspiring an urge for retribution, however, Abyss evokes an abhorrence of murder, whether perpetrated by ignorant teenagers or by the state of Texas.

READ: An interview with Werner Herzog, by Peter Keough

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