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prison drama

Bronson (2008)

 bronson1DIRECTOR: Nicolas Winding Refn

CAST: Tom Hardy

REVIEW:

Bronson is a prime example of a film that’s longer on style than substance.  As envisioned by Nicolas Winding Refn, Bronson is not a straightforward biopic of Michael Peterson, who in his alter ego of “Charlie Bronson” (not to be confused with the actor) became Britain’s most infamous prisoner and has spent all but 69 days from 1974 until the present day behind bars and often in solitary confinement.  Rather, Refn has crafted a stylized and semi-fictionalized “greatest hits” montage of Bronson’s escapades.  Essentially a string of loosely-connected vignettes, Bronson‘s kinetic, visceral approach leaves little chance of boredom but also little depth, and is less a straight narrative than a fragmented, rambling trip through a deranged mind.  Bronson works best as a vehicle to showcase its star Tom Hardy; take away Hardy, and there’s not much left over, and ultimately, a forceful lead performance in and of itself is not enough to make a strong film. Continue reading

The Green Mile (1999)

DIRECTOR: Frank Darabont

CAST: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, Doug Hutchison, Sam Rockwell, James Cromwell, Patricia Clarkson, Barry Pepper, Jeffrey DeMunn, Michael Jeter, Graham Greene, Gary Sinise, Dabbs Greer, Harry Dean Stanton, William Sadler

REVIEW:

For the second convergence of Stephen King and Frank Darabont, following 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption, lightning has struck twice. The two films stand tall together as not only the best book-to-film adaptations of King’s prolific works, but also as great motion pictures period. It’s only Darabont’s second film since his impressive debut with Shawshank, but it demonstrates that the previous movie was not a one-hit wonder. Like Shawshank, The Green Mile is a well-crafted, emotionally powerful drama that requires a sizable commitment of time and attention, but the rewards are worth the effort.

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Murder in the First (1995)

DIRECTOR: Marc Rocco

CAST:

Christian Slater, Kevin Bacon, Gary Oldman, Embeth Davidtz, William H. Macy, R. Lee Ermey, Stephen Tobolowsky, Brad Dourif, Kyra Sedgwick, Mia Kirshner

REVIEW:

Murder in the First is a serviceable, if generic, courtroom drama with one exceptional performance and a couple harrowingly effective sequences. Unfortunately, it’s also a film that makes a virtual lie of its ‘based on true events’ tagline and docudrama style from beginning to end. If you’re looking for a movie to stoke the flames of righteous indignation at prison system injustice, Murder in the First may get your juices flowing, but keep in mind to take everything you see and hear with a very large grain of salt.

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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

DIRECTOR: Frank Darabont

CAST: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, James Whitmore, William Sadler, Mark Rolston

REVIEW:

Among the film adaptations of Stephen King’s written work, pickings are slim for cinematic quality. Apart from The Shining (which King himself disliked), Stand By Me, and Misery, most of the rest runs the gamut from mediocre to bottom of the barrel. The Shawshank Redemption, a product of first-time director Frank Darabont in an impressive debut and Castle Rock Pictures—the company of producer Rob Reiner, who directed Stand By Me and Misery—and an adaptation of King’s novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, is a notable exception. In fact, The Shawshank Redemption is not only possibly the best film adaptation of a Stephen King work, it’s a great film period, telling a powerful and compelling story that involves wrongful imprisonment, prison abuse and corruption, but despite its grim subject matter ultimately manages to be both uplifting and cathartic.

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