the execution | frontline online
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Entertainment Weekly Mike Flaherty

" ... In a rare first-person segment entitled 'The Execution,' correspondent Alan Austin probes 'the heart of the death penalty in America' via the story of executed murderer Clifford Boggess. But, far from giving us yet another pained rumination on capital punishment, Austin creates a chilling psychography. When it's over, you'll neither like nor entirely believe Boggess, but you sure won't forget him. B+"

Boston Herald Monica Collins

"'The Execution' [is] another distinguished episode in the 'Frontline series. Reporter Alan Austin -- who also narrates the film -- takes us on a journey to Death Row in Huntsville, Texas, where he follows prisoner Clifford Boggess until Boggess is put to death.

Austin is no Norman Mailer. However, 'The Execution' has an 'Executioner's Song' lyricism to it. ... To get inside the mind of a murderer is a disquieting journey. Even more uncomfortable is getting a glimmer of understanding about why a man would take another man's life. ...

At the end of 'The Execution,' reporter Austin wonders whether we are all better off now that Clifford Boggess is dead. The question lingers."

Chicago Tribune Steve Johnson

" ... After spending three years on the story, Austin crafts a compelling, clear-eyed 90 minutes. He revisits the crimes and demonstrates very clearly the impact the almost-random killings had on relatives of Boggess' victims. He shows how Boggess' merciless crimes likely had their root in a rotten childhood. But Austin, in his conversations with and assessments of Boggess, is no apologist for this troubled man, shown to be still a little off in his attempts at human connections, even as death and the peace he claims to expect from it loom. But he is also recognizably one of us. And for that, for showing what execution means even in unambiguous circumstances, this work is a valuable contribution to the death-penalty debate."

The Star-Ledger, Newark Matt Zoller Seitz

" ... smart, morally sophisticated documentary filmmaking that doesn't pander to extremists on either side of the issue. Still, the larger purpose of this particular tale remains elusive. It's ultimately both too general and too familiar to achieve the powerful effect for which it clearly strives. And along the way, there are too many cheap and obvious filmmaking tricks that taint the most engrossing portions -- for example, the "Halloween"-style first-person camera work simulating a killer's point of view, the re-creations of Boggess' childhood pilgrimage on foot to his piano teacher's house using a child actor, excessive closeups of Austin poring over documents and evidence, looking tough yet concerned. Such gimmicks might have been defensible in another context, but here, they clash with the otherwise sober tone. It's more 'Dateline' than 'Frontline.'"

Los Angles Times Howard Rosenberg

"Less than 24 hours after convicted double murder Jaturun 'Jay ' Siripongs is scheduled to die by lethal injection in California, PBS will air an extraordinary documentary examining the life and crimes of Clifford Boggess.

'Frontline' correspondent Austin appears almost inscrutable during the three years of filming that make up this documentary and lead to the execution of Boggess, who had never denied murdering two elderly men.

Austin is the classic observer whose stony demeanor betrays no agenda beyond getting a story. 'I came to Texas' death row in 1995 wondering if there weren't something important still to be learned,' he explains in a voice-over after noting how comfortable most Americans are with capital punishment. 'I wanted to find a typical murderer, find out everything I could about him and his crime, and see if it still made sense to kill him.'

Did it? Ninety minutes later, there is no clear answer but much to chew on, including the capacity of Boggess to chillingly straddle what Austin calls 'the horrible and the ordinary.'"

The Orgonian Pete Schulberg

" ... Austin and producer/photographer Mike McLeod travel to Texas' death row to find the 'typical murderer' and 'to see if it still made sense to kill him.'

Through no fault of their own, they might not have achieved either. Yet, in the process, they found a fascinating subject in seemingly kindly monster Clifford Boggess, who was executed June 11 (his birthday because he wanted it that way) for the brutal murders of two elderly men.

While most TV stories about death row inmates might strive for a point of view on whether he or she deserves the lethal injection, Austin focuses on presenting Boggess' life, family and acquaintances. And then lets viewers decide his fate."

The Atlanta Constitution Drew Jubera

"... never takes us anywhere we haven't been before. The only epiphany is that there is no epiphany. By the end, there's only the profound sadness of the victims' survivors, a sadness that makes [correspondent] Austin's existential musings -- 'Did it make sense to execute Clifford Boggess? Had the execution actually punished this killer' -- feel like a profoundly flimsy copout

It's hard to locate the point of 'The Execution' other than the evergreen fascination we have with staring into the face of this sort of evil -- evil that can paint and play the piano and look a lot like us."

San Francisco Chronicle John Carman

" ... Nothing new there. But 'The Execution commands attention as a moody, beautifully filmed and objective look at capital punishment.

One thing that wasn't typical about Boggess was the absence of claims of innocence. Not only does Boggess admit he committed the murders, but he also chillingly describes them on camera. ...

... the thing is cobbled together and presented as a personal effort to glean something new from the deadly business of capital punishment.

Austin doesn't take sides. He wanders around Texas. He strikes up a relationship--not exacty a friendship, it seems--with the condemned man. He visits the victims' survivors.

And in the end, he comes to no conclusion, no catharsis. He is merely somber, weary and sad."

The Plain Dealer, Cleveland Tom Feran

" ... We went looking for a typical murderer on death row,' says correspondent Alan Austin, who interviewed Boggess, his family, his neighbors and the families of his victims over the three years leading to the execution. 'What if we knew everything about him and what he had done, would it still make sense to execute him?'

The 90-minute special leaves it to viewers to answer the question and poses it in a way that defies knee-jerk reaction either way. Neither a bleeding-heart valentine nor a cold brief for the death penalty, it's a typically challenging 'Frontline' that might leave viewers feeling both a bit creepy and uneasily satisfied that justice was done."

The Hollywood Reporter Michael Farkash

"Frontline correspondent Alan Austin found the perfect candidate for this docu on capital punishment -- a confessed killer who is witty, cheerful and casual about his execution, and willing to talk about it.

The report runs through the relevant bases, but viewers may find it difficult to stick it through the 90-minute docu slowed down by static, tame visuals and a paucity of involving content. ...

Through inherently sensational, the subject matter seems familiar in this era of explicit, tabloid journalism. Boggess, an adoptee whose original family was dysfunctional, admits to a rage emerging during the two killings. But do we get into his heart and soul? He paints himself as a different person who has found art and religion, but it all seems a glib defense. Maybe that carefully sculpted veneer is all an outsider will ever get."

St. Louis Post Dispatch Gail Pennington

"'The Execution' sets out to delve 'into the heart of the death penalty in America,' and succeeds not only in doing that but also in delving into the heart of a killer....

Correspondent Alan Austin spent three years on the story and becomes a significant player... standing in for viewers as he expresses deeply mixed emotions about both Boggess and his fate... fascinating to watch and hard to forget afterward."

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