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"The Green Mile"

Directed by Frank Darabont.
Written by Frank Darabont.  Based on the novel by Stephen King. 
Starring Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, Gary Sinise and David Morse.
Release Year:  1999 
Review Date:  12/12/99 


So, Derwin "Jigga" Hylton and I were hanging out at what turned out to be the biggest party on the east coast Saturday night, Chuck & Justin's 1999 Christmas Throwdown--checking out the ladies, a little wink here, a little hip-shake there--and Derwin says to me, "Yo man, I got this movie I think you're gonna like."  So I say Oh yeah, what, and he says "The Green Mile" and I say, Yeah?  And he says

"It was the best movie I've ever seen."

No sarcasm, no crazy hyperbole in his voice, simply matter of fact.  Like he was saying "The sun is yellow" or "Going to work sucks" or "I don't understand why Catherine Zeta-Jones would ever date Michael Douglas"—all facts that don't need explanation.  So I thought to myself, Damn, if Derwin thought that, I need to go and check this shit out!

And, even though Chuck and I somehow got fifty folks to come out to our apartment on Saturday night, I couldn't find a single soul to see this movie today, so I trucked over to the multiplex by my lonesome.  Some people can't handle even the thought of seeing a movie by themselves--the "embarrassment" of sitting by themselves for three hours to see a movie, or admitting to themselves that yep, it's true:  they don't have any friends.  Me, I love it (at least, every so often), because I know that movies don't always have to be a large gathering of friends in order to be a good time.

Let me start this review, then, by saying this:  I read "The Green Mile", a six-part serial novel by Stephen King that was released a couple of years ago, and I thought that it, besides his book "The Stand", was the best book he had ever done.  This is important, because it is very hard watching book-to-movie projects when you have read the book and have a love and great understanding of the text and are hoping to see most of that translated on the screen.

By all accounts, the movie brings home the bacon.  The story--involving a Depression-era prison where a death row supervisor (Tom Hanks) experiences a miracle at the hands of a convicted killer (Michael Clarke Duncan) and so much more--is almost entirely intact from the book and is brought to life beautifully by the same director that brought us "The Shawshank Redemption", as many of you know another Stephen King story.  The acting by all of the actors in this movie--and there are too many to count, to be honest—is beyond superb, especially Duncan, who must have had a tough time continually summoning the emotions necessary to do some of these scenes.  Cameos by Gary Sinise and Graham Greene are strong, and the performance by Doug Hutchison (playing Percy Wetmore, the bad guy in this movie) is oily and whiny and mean and absolutely perfect.  Percy's character in the book is exactly what I envisioned he would be as portrayed in this movie.  Both Hutchison and Duncan's performances (and one would assume, Hanks', since he IS Tom Hanks) could and should net them Oscar nominations.

I hesitate to tell you more about the plot, since none of the developments in the movie were a surprise to me but they were clearly a surprise to the audience in my theater.  But, I will say that one of the things that I loved about the book was how much research King had done on executions during that era, and that is portrayed well in this movie too...and, the executions in the book were much, much, much more explicit than they are in this movie, but don't think for a second that they are taken lightly in the movie version.  The second execution really got a lot of people in my audience (for good reason), especially the kids that were in the theater.  Other than that, you should be cool on the "Do I bring my anti-violence girlfriend to this movie?" quotient, with not much else being a problem.

But, you know what I love most about movies?  It's crying.  This movie's last, oh, 70 minutes are chock-full of emotional scenes, and there was so much crying going on in my theater by the end, you could just look around and see guys comforting girls, girls comforting guys, guys taking their glasses off to wipe away tears, wet tear-sniffle sounds from around the theater, and my favorite:  guys trying to fight back tears.  I love the way guys try and fight back tears!  Guys, you know EXACTLY what I'm talkin' about, too...your spouse/girlfriend/$200-an-hour call girl is sitting next to you, and things are getting tight, but you aren't gonna give in, no matter what.  So, you are working those sinus and tear muscles like it's on your business card.  You're thinking, "I'm not gonna cry, cause if I do, I'm gonna have to hear 'Are you ok, honey?' the entire ride home!"  But of course, when you get out of the theater, your eyes are all red, and so now, not only does your spouse/girlfriend/hooker know that you WERE crying, but everyone you went to the movie with knows that you were crying!  It's lose-lose, baby!  I didn't cry this time because, luckily, I knew what was going to happen.  But, many of you won't be so lucky!

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09