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Messing with the Devil's gonna get you burned.
~ Donnie threatening Annie Wilson

Donnie Barksdale is the secondary antagonist of Sam Raimi's 2000 mystery film The Gift. He is an abusive husband, and the main suspect in the murder of a wealthy socialite.

He was portrayed by Keanu Reeves, who also portrayed David Griffin in The Watcher and Don John in Much Ado About Nothing.

Overview

Donnie Barksdale is the violent and abusive husband of Valerie Barksdale. He is also a bigot who hates African-Americans, Jews, and anyone else who offends his sense of normalcy. He takes a particular dislike to protagonist Annie Wilson, a clairvoyant who performs readings for Valerie against his will, and whom he frequently accuses of witchcraft.

While he is violent, cruel, and not very bright, he has enough macho, swaggering charm to be attractive to local socialite Jessica King. The two begin an affair, even though Jessica is engaged to schoolteacher Wayne Collins.

In The Gift

When Annie advises Valerie to leave Donnie after he gives her two black eyes, Donnie shows up at Annie's house and threatens to kill her and her children unless she leaves his wife alone. Annie goes to the police, but they say there is nothing they can do, as Donnie had not actually harmed her or her children; it is suggested that they are willfully ignoring her plight because they hate her as much as Donnie does.

When Jessica disappears, suspicion falls on Donnie, but he insists that he is innocent. When she is found murdered, he is arrested, and accuses Annie of framing him as he is led away.

During his trial, he admits the affair to prosecutor David Duncan - who had also been Jessica's lover - and even taunts him that he had been better than him at satisfying her sexually. The jury despises him and finds himn guilty of Jessica's murder, sending him to prison.

By the end of the film, however, Annie sees a vision suggesting Donnie's innocence, and ultimately discovers that Collins killed Jessica because she was cheating on him. Donnie is then presumably exonerated and released.

Trivia

  • In preperation for their roles, Keanu Reeves and Hilary Swank consulted spousal abuse counselors to understand the dynamics of abusive relationships.
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