Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer
Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer is a film based on the investigation and trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. It is an important film, but also a very difficult one to watch. The film is directed by Nick Searcy, who also plays one of the major roles in the film. The film is written by Andrew Klavan based on the book Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer by a married couple of investigative journalists from Ireland Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney.
In 2010 Philadelphia detectives James Wood, played by Dean Cain (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), and his partner Starks, played by Alfonzo Rachel, obtain a warrant to search Dr. Gosnell’s clinic regarding an illegal pharmaceutical drug business being run out of the clinic. The DEA and FBI are also investigating the clinic for the same reason. What they find at the clinic is disgusting, a house of horrors. The clinic is filthy, and we see bags containing dead babies and jars of aborted babies’ feet. Cats run freely through the clinic, adding to the terrible smell inside. In the midst of the raid, Dr. Gosnell, played convincingly by Earl Billings, calmly feeds his pet turtles.
As the detectives interview clinic workers, they find out that patients were given anesthesia by untrained clinic workers, some of those workers being as young as 15 years old. One patient died at the clinic from an anesthesia overdose. Abortions were performed at the clinic past the state’s legal limit of 24 weeks. There were many babies that were born alive. In those instances, Dr. Gosnell cut their spinal cords with scissors.
Concerned with what he has seen at the clinic, Detective Wood contacts Assistant District Attorney Lexis McGuire, played by Sarah Jane Morris (Brothers & Sisters), about getting a search warrant for Dr. Gosnell’s home, as it appears that he has recently moved some files from the clinic. District Attorney Dan Molinari, played by Michael Beach, is concerned about the political ramifications of bringing murder charges against an abortion doctor, telling McGuire that it could damage her career aspirations.
Dr. Gosnell hires defense attorney Mike Cohan, played by the film’s director Nick Searcy. An investigative blogger, Molly Mullaney, played by Cyrina Fiallo, plays a key role in the case against Dr. Gosnell. The Mullaney character is a composite of JD Mullane and Mollie Z. Hemingway. The film uses actual transcripts from the two-month trial. Three-time Golden Globe nominee Janine Turner (Northern Exposure) plays Dr. North, an abortion doctor called to the stand during the trial who explains in painful detail the procedures she and her clinic have performed.
The film is difficult to watch not so much for what is shown on the screen, but for what is left to the imagination. Christine Wechsler (on whom Morris’ character is based) and the real-life Wood, served as consultants on the film, which also relied “very heavily on actual court transcripts” and “dozens of hours of interviews with Kermit Gosnell” himself.
The film tells us that despite concerns about the deplorable clinic conditions that were brought to their attention, the Philadelphia Department of Health refused to inspect Dr. Gosnell’s clinic based on orders from a past Pennsylvania governor. As a result, Gosnell’s clinic had not been inspected for several years.
Themes include abortion, murder, justice, sanctity of life. Content concerns include bags containing dead babies, aborted babies’ feet in jars and some adult language.
The film features a solid cast, led by Billings portrayal of Dr. Gosnell. It focuses on the facts of the story, so there is not a lot of character development. Real-life police photos are displayed over the ending credits.
Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer is a film that almost all top critics have refused to review, despite the film finishing in the top 10 its opening weekend while only being shown in just 673 theatres (the top film Venom is showing in 4,250 theatres). Facebook banned ads for the film in May 2018 saying it was “political speech”. The film’s producers raised $2.3 million in 45 days from nearly 30,000 people to fund this film.
It’s an important film. Go see it. Here is a current list of theatres where the film is showing.