The Keeper

  • 1997
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama, Prison

His ambitions exceed his grasp, but writer-director Joe Brewster's debut is a challenging , thought-provoking and timely film, even though it was finished more than a year before charges of police brutality against a Haitian prisoner rocked a Brooklyn police precinct. Middle-class prison guard Paul Lamont (Giancarlo Esposito) is slowly succumbing to a stifling,...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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His ambitions exceed his grasp, but writer-director Joe Brewster's debut is a challenging , thought-provoking and timely film, even though it was finished more than a year before charges of police brutality against a Haitian prisoner rocked a Brooklyn

police precinct. Middle-class prison guard Paul Lamont (Giancarlo Esposito) is slowly succumbing to a stifling, low-level depression brought on by the day-in/day-out grind of dealing with criminals, most of them African-American men like himself. He's becoming cynical and casually brutal, too

smart to accept at face value the poisonous social assumptions that permeate the job -- despite that fact that almost all his coworkers are African-American as well -- but gradually absorbing them all the same. Paul befriends Haitian baker Jean-Baptiste (Isaach de Bankole), who's arrested on a

rape charge he insists is false and later tries to hang himself in his cell. Convinced Jean is innocent, Paul posts bail and later offers him a place to stay, despite the understandable misgivings of Paul's wife Angela (Regina Taylor). What ensues has less to do with Jean than with Paul's own

deeply repressed feelings about himself, particularly his troubled relationship with his late, Haitian father. While it gets itself into a bit of a muddle by the end, Brewster's film dives bravely into a tangled mess of complicated issues, including black-on-black prejudice, institutionalized

brutality within the justice system, class-based contempt, the legacy of unthinking cultural assimilation and the pressures of conflicting loyalties. Ultimately it's not clear whether Paul's explosive self-hatred is racial or cultural, or why his relationship with Angela -- to all appearances a

model wife -- takes such an inflammatory turn. But Esposito's performance is riveting, and Taylor and de Bankole are every bit his equals. The film's rich, moody cinematography is also extremely striking, and helps establish its brooding tone.

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  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: His ambitions exceed his grasp, but writer-director Joe Brewster's debut is a challenging , thought-provoking and timely film, even though it was finished more than a year before charges of police brutality against a Haitian prisoner rocked a Brooklyn pol… (more)

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