Robert Blecker Wants Me Dead Proves Refreshingly Problematic


Robert Blecker Wants Me Dead, directed by Ted Schillinger, is shot on crappy consumer video, lazily set to ominous music, and bears all the hallmarks of an undistinguished issues treatise. As it turns out, its titular subject makes it one of the few genuinely problematic documentaries to come along in a long while. Blecker’s an active death-penalty advocate, a “retributivist” who believes there isn’t enough bloodlusty desire for vengeance in the judicial system. Spending time in maximum-security facilities to prove conditions there aren’t nearly as bad as most people think, Blecker gets sucked in by one Daryl Holton—a man who murdered his four children, promptly turned himself in, and actively thwarts anything that could delay his execution. When Holton unexpectedly starts launching appeals with no explanation, their relationship gets way more complicated. Blecker alternates between trusting Holton and thinking he’s a lying coward—and keeps questioning his own motivation for needing Holton to die. Blecker is like a walking David Foster Wallace character, grappling with his own thinking and then grappling some more. By execution night, a torn Blecker is floating outside the prison, accepted neither by the pro– or anti–death penalty factions, literally alone in the darkness. Watching someone have their moral certainty evaporate is a powerful thing—and more than adequate compensation for the film’s technical flaws.