Billy Bob Thornton is one of my favorite actors, & this is the sort of role that should have permitted him to do his best work. But the script is often so far from capturing anything probable in human behavior that it becomes very difficult to be captivated by the characters.
It opens with Billy Bob in front of the parole board pretty much begging not to be let out of prison, but the angry board tells him it's not his choice & they're kicking him out. The only way that scene could've made sense is if it had been played as slapstick comedy, but it is deadly earnest. When the angry parole board chastises him for being a model prisoner & forces him to leave, we're supposed to think that's the way people behave. Much of the character behaviors that will follow make as little sense.
The excon returns to his home town seeking redemption but not forgiveness for the murder he committed more than twenty years before. When we see him striding into town svelt in his ultra-fashionable coat & beautiful flowing hair-do, he looks more like the conductor of the philharmonic orchestra than a depressed excon just released from prison.
He gets work as a janitor working for a preacher (Morgan Freeman) who has a mission in the bad part of town & a chip on his shoulder against God. The excon broodingly strives to make amends for that one terrible mistake of his youth, but the script never quite acknowledges that his eagerness to be near the baby sister (Holly Hunter) of the man he killed amounts to stalking. Revelations about each character are across the board ridiculous & their interactions never the least bit real.
The central premise of the film is a good one but the writing seems to come from the ivory tower of some liberal twinkus who knows nothing about the streets, & the direction & whole look of the film is Art House Lite where noir was required. Like a glossy melodrama for the Christian Channel, it is gutless, agendized, simplemindedly moralistic, & above all dull.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl