The Shawshank Redemption
Kevin Anderson and Reg E. Cathey lead a persuasive cast in this effective stage adaptation of Stephen King's novella about life in prison.
Director Peter Sheridan has given it a crisp prison-door-clanging-shut production with Kevin Anderson, Reg E. Cathey and a cast of actors bringing the right quirks to their roles as prison staff and con men, some of whom have hearts and some of whom only have night sticks, fists or other aggressive body parts.
It does no harm that surrounding every incarnation of King's tale is the strong whiff of a Christian allegory, which the productive author seems to waft through the fetid air whenever he goes behind bars. The Christ figure here is Andy Dufresne (Anderson), a banker in Maine's Shawshank Prison for murdering his wife and her lover -- allthough he protests his innocence and ticket buyers, if not the characters, rightly believe him from the get-go.
Andy soon befriends fellow inmate Red (Cathey), who declares "I can get things" and supplies the newcomer with a rock hammer and posters -- one large, one larger -- of actress Rita Hayworth. Meanwhile, over a period of time, Andy gets the prison guards on his side by doing their taxes, and later ups the ante with tough-minded warden Stammas (Mitchell Mullen) by adroitly cooking the prison books. But that's only so he can strike deals whereby he expands the library and obtains other perks for his peers -- often while wearing a beatific smile.
All isn't smooth going for Andy, however. He endures -- sometimes for himself and sometimes for his peers -- stretches of solitary confinement. He faces frustration when proof of his innocence is squelched by Stammas, and there are even worse ignominies. His travails could be likened to the stations of the cross. Yet, King's title promises redemption, and it does materialize. Indeed, whether The Shawshank Redemption is realistic or more akin to scare-tactics fantasy -- or whether the plot has holes large enough to accommodate a prison break -- doesn't matter when the fun-with-a-message-factor is so potent.