The Keeper

on September 05, 1997 by Kim Williamson
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   The presence of Giancarlo Esposito ("Fresh"), one of film's best underused actors, is what keeps alive to its conclusion this story of a humanitarian prison guard/law-school student, Paul Lamont (Esposito), who takes under his protection and even into his home a Haitian immigrant, Jean-Baptiste ("Night on Earth's" Isaach de Bankole), who insists he has been wrongly accused of rape. Boasting an intriguing ability with genuine dialogue and quiet direction, filmmaker Joe Brewster, in the movie's first hour--if at a snail's pace and with barely a semblance of plot movement--builds an interesting picture of the man who keeps convicts incarcerated by day but by night studies the law that could free them.
   The key element lacking in the film, however, is a central problem for Brewster's protagonist to solve. Lacking that, "The Keeper" in its final third settles for something akin to soap operatics. Did Jean-Baptiste sleep with the wife ("A Family Thing's" Regina Taylor) of Paul, or not? Suddenly, Paul has a gun on Jean-Baptiste--will he shoot? Does he want to shoot? What should be a calling into question of a complex man's value system is undercut by the suddenness of the troubles and Paul's virtual unthinking response to them. Starring Giancarlo Esposito, Isaach de Bankole and Regina Taylor. Directed and written by Joe Brewster. A Kino release. Drama. Unrated. Running time: 89 min
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