Writing on the Walls
Struggling writer Paul Freeman (Matthew Modine) takes a job teaching prisoners creative writing as he has bills to pay and hopes he will find inspiration by getting to meet inmates and hearing their stories. It is how he comes to meet Charles Henderson (Obba BabatundÃ©) a literate inmate who keeps out of trouble and seems willing to help those who want to be helped. Henderson has spent the last 20 years in prison having been accused of murder when he was part of the Black Panthers. Despite protesting his innocence each year his parole has been denied because of the objections Sharon Davidson (Michele Greene) the sister of the man who was killed and who in her own way has spent 20 years locked up by the fear that it could happen again. Realising that Henderson is innocent and deserves a second chance he persuades him to use his skills as a writer to write to Sharon and ask for her forgiveness.
"Redeemer" feels like half a movie, like a movie where for some reason the depth of the story was kept from us in favour of simplicity. It has a detrimental effect on how effective it is and ends up bordering on the cliche and reminiscent of other movies especially "The Hurricane". What that really means is that "Redeemer" will keep you watching but when it is over you will feel like where's the rest of the story.
So what's the problem with "Redeemer"? Well in many ways it is thin, lacking depth and layers to make it more engaging. An example of this is that we constantly see a flashback to 20 years earlier as we witness The Black Panthers raid a drug house resulting in one of the men, not Charles, accidentally killing Sharon Davidson's brother. We learn that not all is as it seems and we see the minute Charles and the others leave the police are outside waiting for them. It poses several questions like why did Charles get such a harsh sentence but never answers them. It turns the focus from being on an innocent man fighting for his freedom to a pushy writer who hounds him in to writing to the victim's sister.
On that subject the attention which Sharon gets is where the movie works as it highlights that what happened to her left her a prisoner of fear and in turn her fear is placing restrictions on her daughter. Considering so much of the movie focuses on Paul hounding Charles to get to the bottom of things it is nice that the other side of crime is shown.
Aside from that "Redeemer" benefits greatly from having decent actors with both Matthew Modine and Obba BabatundÃ© keeping control of their characters. Yes the character of Paul ends up annoying because he comes across as pushy but Modine makes him interesting without over powering the story.
What this all boils down to is that "Redeemer" is a good movie with a good story which I must add is inspired by a true story. But unfortunately the end product feels thin as if the detail and the interesting back story have been left out in preference to focusing on the story of Paul and Charles.