By Leah Rozen
March 03, 2003 12:00 PM

Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney, Gabriel Mann

Spacey is suffering from a bad case of Robin Williams disease, the main symptom of which is playing characters (Patch Adams, Jakob the Liar) who suffer nobly for all humanity. (To be fair, Williams, with psycho turns in One Hour Photo and Insomnia, is now in recovery.) Spacey, who excels at portraying brainy reptiles, shuffled through his last three films (The Shipping News, K-Pax and Pay It Forward) as a poor schlub. He’s at it again with equally dreary results in The Life of David Gale, a thriller that sputters along, never hitting cruising speed.

In the film, Spacey plays the title role, an anti-death penalty advocate in Texas who is on death row for raping and murdering a coprotester (Linney, who’s note perfect). Winslet is a hot-shot reporter trying to determine whether Gale has been framed. Life is riddled with implausibilities (starting with Winslet’s newsweekly paying $500,000 to interview Gale) that undercut any attempts to build dramatic momentum. (R)

BOTTOM LINE: It’s not a wonderful Life