A Miscarriage of Justice
In January 1969 David Milgaard (Ian Tracey) finds himself being arrested for the rape and murder of a nurse in Saskatchewan as his car was near to where the body was found. Despite being innocent he finds himself a year later being sentenced to life in prison for the murder thanks to failings in the police system and altered testimonies from those he was with. Whilst David is inside his mother never gives up on proving his innocence and whilst David's positivity dwindles the longer he is inside his mother keeps on fighting never letting a knock back deter her from campaigning for her son's release.
Based on the true story of a miscarriage of justice "Hard Time: The David Milgaard Story" is one of those made for TV movies which dramatizes what happened including the errors in the judicial system which saw him wrongfully convicted. It makes it one of those movies which can automatically seem impressive due to the power of the true story it is based upon and the anger which this sort of injustice causes to boil up inside of the viewer. But as a reviewer I need to separate the emotion of the true story and look at other things such as the acting and the production and so when I say that "Hard Time: The David Milgaard Story" is just a regular TV movie about a miscarriage of justice it is not a slight on the true story.
I say regular because there have been quite a few movies which dramatize similar miscarriages of justice where an innocent man ends up doing time for a crime they didn't commit and if it wasn't for the belief of friends and families would end up remaining in prison for the rest of their days and "Hard Time: The David Milgaard Story" is no better or worse than these other movies. It takes us through the obvious steps from David's initial arrest and interrogation where it is clear that procedure is not being followed, we then have the court case where witness testimonies are clearly shown to be inconsistent, we get to see David's struggles with incarceration and of course his mother's relentless campaigning for his release. It hits the expected story marks which this sort of movie requires and in doing so spiking are interests when it is clear that he is being stitched up.
But the thing is that no matter how interesting the story is and how much it builds up anger in the viewer it is just an ordinary production with no flare what so ever. The camera work is ordinary, the acting is ordinary and the dialogue is also ordinary. Now maybe director Stephen Williams kept it looking ordinary so as not to distract from the true story but in doing so he ends up doing just that because its ordinary styling often makes it lack tension, emotion and drama, none more so in the initial court case which should be a hot bed of emotion but lacks atmosphere to make it riveting. Don't get me wrong as there are some very powerful scenes but they are just fleeting moments in an otherwise ordinary production.
What this all boils down to is that the true story of David Milgaard and the miscarriage of justice is a powerful one but "Hard Time: The David Milgaard Story" is just routine movie which is based upon it with not only a lack of tension but a style which makes it sadly only routine.