The drunken game of William Tell in which William S. Burroughs shot and killed his wife, Joan Vollmer, has long been one of the more sensational tales of the beat generation, and mainstream Hollywood was bound to get to it sooner or later. This neatly scripted 2000 docudrama, set between 1944 and 1951 and shot on location in Mexico, focuses on Vollmer’s unrealized romance with Lucien Carr (Norman Reedus), the Saint Louis gadabout who connected Burroughs with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. By consigning the literary lions to supporting roles, writer-director Gary Walkow manages to trim the legend back down to the common tragedy of a promising life cut short, yet the film never overcomes its casting of Courtney Love, a blond bombshell with a tabloid past of her own, as Vollmer, a plain, brunette bookworm and alcoholic. It also forfeits its claim to be “entirely factual and based on extensive research” by omitting the couple’s young children, Julie and Billy Jr., from Vollmer’s drunken road trip with Carr and Ginsberg to see the live volcano Paricutin. Ron Livingston is excellent as Ginsberg, the film’s de facto narrator, and Kiefer Sutherland is admirably restrained in the role of Burroughs, the biggest invitation to caricature since Rod Steiger tackled W.C. Fields. With Sam Trammell and Kyle Secor. 90 min.