R (for language)
1 hr. 40 minutes
Billy Bob Thornton, Morgan Freeman, Holly
Hunter, and Kirsten Dunst
WRITER / DIRECTOR:
Sony Pictures Classics
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By Elliott Ryan
- Billy Bob Thornton stars in this heavy drama as Manual Jordan,
a convicted murderer looking for redemption. After 23 years in a maximum
security prison, Jordan is paroled against his will. He feels he should
stay behind bars the rest of his life to pay for his crime. Since that
is no longer an option, he feels it necessary to see if there is any way
good deeds today can pay for one evil deed in his past.
Jordan is taken in by Miles Evans (Morgan Freeman), a pastor who runs a local
community center. Evans is not a typical minister as, in addition to preaching
and ministering, he also curses and self-medicates with some sort of illegal
substance when he is alone in his room. In addition, he refers to his
own sermons as lies. He does, however, give Jordan a job and a place to
Jordan also becomes involved in the lives of two women who live in town.
One of those women is Adele (played by Holly Hunter). She is the sister
of the man Jordan killed 23 years ago. Jordan develops a relationship
with her out of a desire to ask her for forgiveness and help her in some
way. Unfortunately, he never mentions to her that he was her brother's
killer. As with any secret of this nature, it is only a matter of time
until she finds out Jordan's identity one way or another.
Jordan also tries to help Sofia (played by Kirsten Dunst). She is a troubled
young woman who has a bad habit of passing out in nightclubs. Perhaps
Jordan feels that by trying to help her, he can gain further redemption
from his sins.
This movie makes a powerful statement about how just one evil action can
ruin a person's life. Jordan was not a hardened serial killer. He was
just a 17-year-old kid who made a stupid decision to hold up a convenient
store and then in the stress of the moment fired on the clerk for no reason.
That one sin has taken away his entire adult life to this point. Now he
is obsessed with finding some way to wash his hands clean of the past.
But he has great difficulty accomplishing that task.
Jordan fails to find the one thing in life that can bring absolution for
past sins -- a relationship with Jesus Christ. God is mentioned often
in the discussion of finding redemption but virtually every main character,
including the preacher, says they don't believe in God. But the movie
makes an important point nonetheless: Everyone is looking for redemption
and forgiveness. Everyone desires second chances. As believers, we have
a message that provides hope to a lost world -- we can introduce them
to a God who gives second chances.
This film is often being referred to as a Christian film. That label doesn't
really fit. In addition to the God-less worldview of the characters, the
film is laced with profanity. The story is uplifting but not really all
But it is still an excellent movie. Writer and director Solomon makes his
directorial debut with this film. He is known in Hollywood as a screenwriter
for such films as Men in Black and the Bill and Ted series.
The cast features four well-known, talented actors who all put in good
performances. Thornton's character seems to be a mix between characters
he played in two movies released in recent years: Monster's Ball
and The Man Who Wasn't There.
This is certainly not a movie for the whole family. But adult viewers who
can sit through the constant barrage of four-letter words will see a powerful
movie about man's need for redemption. Hopefully, the film will encourage
viewers to consider how they can find redemption in their own lives.
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