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THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: One of the best movies to ever be adapted from a Stephen King story is this non-horror tale of, well, redemption. And for its 25th anniversary, Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies are giving the film big-screen showings across the country on Sunday, Sept. 22, at 4 and 7 p.m., and at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24, and Wednesday, Sept. 25, locally in the Union Heights, Sugarhouse and Century 16 Cinemark theaters, as well as the Megaplex Jordan Commons and District multiplexes. My review below was published in the Deseret News on Oct. 7, 1994.

Like "Stand By Me," "The Shawshank Redemption" is adapted from a Stephen King novella that has nothing to do with horror. And like the former film, the latter is one of the best to be adapted from a King story. (It also marks the second Tim Robbins movie of the year with an odd title — anyone remember "The Hudsucker Proxy"?)

"Shawshank" is what might be described as an ethereal prison picture, if that's not an oxymoron.

Robbins stars as Andy Dufresne, a New England banker who is given a life sentence (two, actually) for the murder of his wife and her lover in 1947. Did he do it? He claims to be innocent. But then, so do all the other inmates in the fictional maximum-security Shawshank State Prison in Maine.

The film begins like most movies in this genre, chronicling Andy's crime, his sentencing, his imprisonment and then showing his adjustment to prison life as an innocent among wolves.

     

Tim Robbins, left, Morgan Freeman, 'The Shawshank Redemption'

But then, the film takes some unexpected twists and turns. Andy isn't like any other prisoner. He's quiet and reflective, he's a reader and chess player, and he keeps to himself. In fact, he doesn't make any acquaintances until he approaches a 30-year veteran and well-known prison procurer (Morgan Freeman, who also gives the film its voice-over narration) for assistance in his rock-carving hobby.

The friendship that develops between Andy and Red is the center of the film, and both actors are in top form — which is considerable. They are the main reason to see the movie (along with a wonderful supporting bit by James Whitmore). But the filmmakers manage to give the prison clichés — and they're all here — some nods and winks and tweaks that are quite unexpected.

After a time, Andy is able to use his accounting skills as a means of getting special privileges — but he doesn't just get them for himself. He seems to be a selfless fellow, parlaying his efforts into developing a useful prison library and making life a bit more tolerable for some of his comrades.

     

Ultimately, however, we discover that Andy is even more than he seems. And his achievements go off in fascinating directions (though the final shot may seem a bit contrived).

Prison pictures are an overly familiar genre. But at their best — "Cool Hand Luke," "The Birdman of Alcatraz," etc. — they are remarkable character studies. "The Shawshank Redemption" manages to climb into this rank by keeping the story off-center and the twists highly entertaining in unexpected ways.

My main complaint is the film's length. At 2½ hours, it tends to sag a bit and could certainly use some tightening. But that's a small complaint for a movie this satisfying.

"The Shawshank Redemption" is rated R for the expected prison violence (though the worst of it is off camera) and language. There is also a brief sex scene and some nudity.