Time Out says
Albert Pierrepoint (Spall) never considered himself a monster. As far as this stocky British gentleman was concerned, he was just someone who did a job...only most average blokes don’t have more than 450 kills to their name. During his 22-year tenure as an executioner, Pierrepoint was considered the best hangman in the business. After being chosen to end the lives of several hundred Nazi war criminals, the Yorkshire native even became a minor celebrity. But despite his insistence that he could separate the personal from the professional (“I leave Albert Pierrepoint outside that door”), the man failed to keep his humanity repressed indefinitely. The only thing guiltier than his victims, it seems, was his conscience.
Somewhere in this true story lies a grand statement about what taking lives for a living really does to a person’s moral compass. Adrian Shergold, a veteran TV director, never quite finds it; his film dutifully recounts the facts (fudging a bit for dramatic effect) but only skims the surface. Spall’s performance, however, almost makes up for the movie’s shortcomings by plumbing the depths of denial and still staying true to the character’s passivity. When the actor finally confronts Pierrepoint’s legacy, the effect is devastating. If only the rest of the movie had the guts to follow him down that descent. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear