The Keeper

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The Keeper

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The Keeper

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Writer-director Joe Brewster's ambitious debut, The Keeper, plays like cut-rate Charles Burnett (To Sleep With Anger): It wrestles with issues of racial identity, moral responsibility, and man's hidden capacity for violence, without Burnett's tonal eccentricities or suggestive undercurrents. But Brewster does well to center the drama around Giancarlo Esposito (Do The Right Thing, Fresh), an actor whose tangled intensity seems entirely constricted to his jaw. Esposito, who also co-produced, stars as a corrections officer disillusioned by the conditions in a grim Brooklyn penitentiary, where he unsteadily navigates between the mostly black inmates and his fellow jailers, also black, who have long since abandoned any faith in reform. In a well-intentioned gesture to buck the system, he helps a Haitian immigrant (Isaach de Bankole) accused of rape, posting his bail and giving him a place to stay, despite the objections of his wife (Regina Taylor). When the two quickly hit it off—courtesy of a montage sequence—Esposito's jealousy and suspicion begin to mount, with tragic results. Brewster, himself a former prison psychiatrist, has a good feel for the workaday dreariness of manning the final stop on the justice system. But he's a clumsy dramatist, scraping together his busy polemic with maudlin flashbacks, runaway metaphors, and a preposterous third act. By the end, even the title sags from the baggage dumped upon it.

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