Werner Herzog never makes thing easy on himself. Sitting on the other side of a glass partition talking to a convicted killer in Into the Abyss becomes the tough-minded moral equivalent of the physical challenges in his earlier films, like trudging through the jungle or across Antarctica. “I don’t have to like you,” Herzog tells Michael Perry, and this murderer who has found Jesus looks a little stunned.
There are gangsters we love for their badness, and others – more poignant, more affecting – who take soul-changing action at the last minute, redeeming their earlier crimes. In Joe Maggio’s sharply-drawn The Last Rites of Joe May, Dennis Farina gives a stirring yet unsentimental performance as an aging, mob-connected Chicago crook who makes one of those heroic final gestures. (“Last” is right there in the title; you can’t be too surprised at the finality).