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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Movie Review - The Jericho Mile

The Jericho Mile was on ESPN Classic yesterday. I taped in and watched it this morning; it was on during the Zurich Weltklasse webcast and then I was busy at a road race after that. I'd never seen it until today; it's considered one of the classic running movies. Apparently a remake is in the works.

This is almost the prototypical 1970s movie. Filmed entirely within California's Folsom State Prison (yes, that Folsom) it portrays the inmates as real human beings instead of animals. Part of the attitude of that more liberal time was the belief that all people have inherent and equal value merely by being alive. Some inmates were portrayed as positive characters, others negative, but in general they were like people in the rest of society. The theme music is taken from the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil", suggesting compassion for a man who did something terrible. The film also has the hallmarks of a "working class movie" such as Smokey and the Bandit or Every Which Way But Loose, a genre that has all but died out.

Like a lot of sports films, it suffers from less-than-believable action. The action, however, is almost beside the point. Really, this is far more of a prison movie than a running movie, it just uses running as a means to tell a story--which is that personal redemption is possible even in a world where society at large views certain people as throwaways, to be locked up away from sight and forgotten.

By the way, the look I was going for in my teens and early 20s is a dead ringer for the protagonist Rain Murphy:but it came out more like Benny Andersson:
Is it a good movie? Well, the storyline is a bit predictable, and the dialogue isn't so great. It does succeed at revealing part of the human condition, and that makes it worthwhile. It's certainly better than what followed it on ESPN Classic; Four Minutes, a piece of hackneyed crap.

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