Capital punishment is a well-worn film subject, and as such, an unusual departure for Werner Herzog, who specializes in fantastic journeys. Here, he ventures into a bleak strip of Texas—Huntsville and Conroe, two dismal towns located 30 miles apart on I-45—landing squarely into a dark corner of Americana. Poverty, illiteracy, substance abuse and violence shadow the lives of his subjects, starting with 28-year-old Michael Perry, who is days away from being executed for an utterly senseless triple murder he committed in Conroe with an accomplice in 2002. Herzog proves to be an adept, sympathetic interviewer, gaining the trust of Perry and two other convicts in the brief time he's given. Through interviews and a retracing of the crime spree using archival police videos—set to a searing score by Mark Degli Antoni—Herzog builds a portrait of pain, trying to shed light on the inhumane way we treat our poor and dispense justice.