October 17, 2018

Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer Review

Earl Billings

Initially intended as a television movie, Gosnell certainly shows the limitations of the medium for which it was originally destined. How do you know? Well, let’s just say Dean Cain, whose career high point is definitely as television’s Superman of the 1990s, headlines Hallmark Christmas movies, not theatrical releases. 

One’s opinions on abortion do not change the fact that Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell was a monster, and the movie allows Earl Billings a terrific opportunity to craft his own real-life Hannibal Lecter; the man actually played the piano while police searched his home. The movie has a clear ideological intent—the website humblebrags that director Nick Searcy was the biggest Hollywood “star” to guest-host “The Rush Limbaugh Show”—yet it protests too much that Gosnell’s trial—i.e. the movie—is not about abortion. Whether or not the trial was, the movie certainly is. Yet it undercuts its attempted message by painting Gosnell with such a hyperbolic subtitle and monstrous characterization. 

The movie’s construction would be acceptable for television. What ultimately weakens it is its lack of a killer instinct. It uncharacteristically courts an opposition unlikely to ever watch it. Even then, it withholds its most graphic moment—what it posits as the turning point of Gosnell’s trial and the only image remotely powerful enough to sway its less iron-willed opposition. Despite an uncharacteristic aloofness about a hyper-emotional issue, its anti-abortion moral still overpowers whatever fascinating criminal melodrama exists within the monstrous tale of Gosnell.