Devil’s Knot (2014) – Movie Review

Based on the book by the same title, DEVIL’s KNOT is a docu-drama about the 1993 ritual murders of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. This film does not contain any basic information that is not already covered in the documentaries PARADISE LOST and WEST of MEMPHIS. It does, however, provide some fairly interesting reenacted personal perspectives of the various parties: victims’ families, the accused “Memphis 3” and certain of their friends, the police and prosecution, the defense teams, etc. DEVIL’s KNOT makes for a compelling enough show and is expertly filmed with decent but not great acting. Though I’m sure that there are some misrepresentations of certain details, it is faithful to the basic events of this case. The biggest limitation is that those who have read the various books and seen earlier films will not find anything terribly new here while casual viewers who are unfamiliar with the case will find all the various characters and shifting perspectives confusing.

Colin Firth gives a nice performance as private investigator for the defense Ron Lax; ditto for Reese Witherspoon as Pam Hobbs. DEVIL’s KNOT might have worked better with a stricter focus on one or maybe both of these characters, even if that meant ignoring certain other people and factors in the case.

Regardless, this film is very revealing of how incompetent police work, selective use of evidence by the prosecution, and public hysteria in this rather superstitious Bible Belt community led to the denial of reasonable doubt for the accused “Memphis 3.” Without telling you what to think or pointing the finger unduly, it also cursorily examines other potential suspects. There are some brief bits of courtroom drama, but again, the focus changes just as things get really interesting.

In short, DEVIL’s KNOT is quite watchable, but the attempt to tell the entire story in a narrative of less than two hours is inadequate and dissatisfying.

WARNING: Though there’s not a lot of gore, there are some brief and graphic post mortem shots of the young victims.

 

6 out of 10

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