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Lifestyle

April 22, 2013

Sundance Channel's 'Rectify' hums with tension

There is no manual for life after death row. Especially when your case isn’t closed.

“Rectify,” the anticipated miniseries from “Breaking Bad’s” team of producers, is a work of fiction. But its premise, a man freed by DNA evidence after half a lifetime in prison, has been stubbornly asserting itself in our cultural consciousness.

Still reeling from 19 years in solitary confinement, Daniel Holden (Aden Young of “Killer Elite” having a breakout moment), has no option but to return to the sharp-toothed hometown that demonized him for raping and killing a teenage girl. Paulie, Ga., doesn’t have a bar where you can get a stiff drink, but you can bet everybody knows your name.

“Rectify” holds its own with “Restless” and “Top of the Lake,” Sundance Channel’s other stellar miniseries this year. Flawless production design and lush cinematography make “Rectify” visually stunning, but its simmering mystery and artfully depicted dysfunction make every scene hum with tension.

Opinion on Holden’s guilt is divided in Paulie. It’s hard to forget his confession, however coerced it might have been, and the fact that he was found incoherent with the girl’s body, which he’d covered with wildflowers. There are few doubts among the men who put Holden away the first time, including a prosecutor who rode the verdict into office.

“Don’t report that he was exonerated,” insists state Sen. Roland Foulkes as Holden walks free — for now. “His sentence was vacated on a technicality.” Like the others involved in the case, Foulkes (Michael O’Neill of “The West Wing”) is either evil or clinging to his last shred of conscience.

If anyone is the savior in this Lazarus story, it’s Daniel’s stepbrother’s wife, Tawney. Adelaide Clemens, also starring in the upcoming film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby,” is convincing as an honest-to-goodness sincere Southern Christian, a species rarely captured by Hollywood cameras.

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