Comfortable and Furious

The Green Mile (1999)

Since I’m the one who is indeed fresh out of the big house, why shouldn’t I be the one to write a review about that other great prison movie? One that came out of the pen and twisted mind of my dear and revered Mr. King? I’ll admit that 21st century Dutch prison and that of 1935’s America are probably two vastly different worlds, but who cares? Prison is prison. The steel bars are just the same.

When thinking about eternal life and cheating death, virtually no one asks the question of “what would happen if you did indeed not die, but not stay young, either?” So, you would go on living, growing ever older, while you had to watch how everyone you ever cared about just kept on dying around you. That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, does it? Just the sort of subject, then, for someone like Stephen King to write about, and for Frank Darabont to make a 3+ hour long movie.

To write any sort of review, one must imagine that there are people out there who have apparently been living under various types of rocks for many, many years, and who just now came out of their self-chosen solitude and decided, for some reason, that this movie is their first choice to get reacquainted with the world. That’s fine.

So, people, what is this movie about, you ask? Well, it’s about Paul Edgecomb (played by Tom Hanks), who was a supervising correction officer in a 1935 American prison. We first meet him when he is an old man, living in a retirement home, where he reminisces about his time on the prison’s death row department. This Death Row prison has a green linoleum floor. We then switch time and place, and we see Paul’s workplace: a little hallway with a few cells on each side, housing those that are destined for a ride on Old Sparky. We are introduced to some of the inhabitants, as well as some of Paul’s colleagues.

We are then treated to the introduction of the other big stars of the movie, like Paul’s colleague, Brutus ‘Brutal’ Howell, (played by the steadfast and ever trustworthy David Morse). They are awaiting the arrival of a new inmate. A truck pulls up, and both men comment on the fact that that old rust bucket apparently has a broken axle, because it hangs so close to the ground. Then the back door opens, and we see why that is; a giant, hulking man (played by Michael Clarke Duncan), steps out, and the truck veers right back up again. The viewers immediately know someone special is emerging.

The man who emerges is John Coffey (‘like the drink, only not spelled the same’), a gigantic black man, sentenced to death after being convicted of raping and murdering two young girls. As well as being formidable physically, he also has some mysterious healing powers. These are first demonstrated when John grabs Paul by the crotch and cures him of his bladder infection. There seem to be some people out there who think that John Coffey’s initials are a reference to that other man with the same sort of abilities, who apparently got nailed to some planks of wood a few thousand years ago, but that sounds like a stretch to me.

Anyway, interactions follow; things happen, like mice being flattened and resurrected; There is also a horribly botched execution because some nasty fucker (Percy) purposely forgets to put a wet sponge between a man’s head and a metallic plate. So, instead of getting zapped into oblivion quickly, the condemned slowly cooks, burns, and sizzles in agony to his gruesome death. To play that role in a film in which you are hated by everyone is not always the most thankful, but Doug Hutchison does it with conviction. He plays that slimy, sniveling bastard to a tee.

Speaking of characters you love to hate, a special mention should go to Wild Bill (played by Sam Rockwell). From the moment this vile and loathsome piece of human excrement arrives at the Mile, he does nothing more than attack and brutalize the guards, taunt and abuse his fellow inmates, and generally act really mean. Some of his shenanigans are truly inspired, like with the moon pie facial. What’s the antidote for a mis-directed moon pie? A roofied RC Cola, of course. They are in The South, after all.

Sam Rockwell, at least in those movies I’ve seen from him, seems to like playing characters that are insane. Just look at his role as president of the universe in the brilliant The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which he actually has two heads. He played psychopaths [EDITOR’S NOTE: How about Seven Psychopaths?], murderers, racists and just overall weird people.

In the great little sci-fi flick Moon, he gets, quite understandably one might add, a little crazy when he discovers he is not really him, but a clone of himself. Lots of clones, actually. Is Rockwell just acting, or is he really insane? One might be inclined to think that after viewing Wild Bill in this over the top performance. In reality, he is just a superior actor.

Anyway, back to the movie…. Is Wild Bill the one doing the mouse-flattening? No, he’s not, but he just as well might have been. But rest assured, my dear readers, the mouse assassin gets what is coming to him. Yes, he does. So kudos to Mr. Rockwell, I’d say, who also received an early exit. 

As the movie goes on, Paul gets more and more doubtful about whether John is really guilty of his crime, and whether or not it’s a sin to kill someone with the power to perform miracles. You know, like those mean Jews did, way back when. Or the Romans, whichever way you want to look at it. I don’t care.

Does J.C. gets killed (again), in this movie? Does Paul get to live forever, growing ever older until there’s nothing left of him but a horrible, wrinkled, asthmatic, rheumatoid, bed-wedding excuse for a human being? Go watch this movie, dear folks, and see for yourselves.

Oh, and for those of you all-serious-movie-critiquers out there, who want to know stuff about the quality of direction, the character-building, the pace of the movie, and all that sort of shit: yeah, it’s alright. This movie is good. That’s all you need to know.

So, rejoice, rockers of all ages! Welcome back to the world, and congratulations on your choice of movie! Oh, and by the way, if you also haven’t watched any news, these past few years, the best of luck, then, with your upcoming new USA President. You’ll get either one of two senior citizens, one of which is only slightly senile and quite brittle, and the other, well… I’m not going to give him any publicity at all.






5 responses to “The Green Mile (1999)”

  1. John Welsh Avatar
    John Welsh

    “Stone walls doe not a prison make,
    “ Nor iron bars a cage”

    The byline Crazy Dutchman puts me in mind of that Stephen Crane story The Blue Hotel. In it a crabby Swede is mistaken for a Dutchman by a cowboy. The Swede attacks a Gambler who shives him, for which the Gambler gets three years. Life in the Old West.

    ”Oh, and for those of you all-serious-movie-critiquers out there, who want to know stuff about the quality of direction, the character-building, the pace of the movie,” Not to worry your pretty little head. I’ll take came of those elements.

    “At that, the crowd went wild: “Kill him! Give us Barabbas!”
    Luke 23:18. Granted, an unreliable account.

    I complement you not only on your critical skills, but also on your knowledge and usage of English.

    1. Goat Avatar

      It is amazing that Paul could write such a review and English is not his native language. Anyway, I thought it was a great job.

  2. The Crazy Dutchman Avatar
    The Crazy Dutchman

    Guys, enough of that, now. You’re making me blush.


    1. Goat Avatar

      You should blush.

  3. The Crazy Dutchman Avatar
    The Crazy Dutchman

    I am. Generously.


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