A remake of the 70s French film, Deux Hommes Dans La Ville, this is the sorry tale of William Garnett (Forest Whitaker) on parole after spending 18 years in prison for killing a deputy. Now a convert to Islam and desperate to start a new life, William is constantly harangued by Bill, the town’s sheriff played by Harvey Keitel. Elsewhere, his former partner in crime, a human trafficker called Terence (Luis Guzman), wants to offer him a new life as long as it’s under his rule.
Directed by Rachid Bouchareb, Two Men in Town is a dusty, sun bleached saunter through redemption with William being taken under the wing by Brenda Blethyn as his parole officer, Emily. If it’s not already noticeable, this is a stellar cast and they are uniformly brilliant. Rather than the male leads sharing scenes that make the film, its perhaps Blethyn and Keitel locking horns that truly stand out. Keitel as a man who feels justice has yet to be done, and Blethyn as someone who has built her sense of the law on the ideals of everyone being allowed a second chance.
Unfortunately, there are faults. Particularly in a subplot that sees William quickly setting up a relationship with a Bank Teller that ends up feeling like nothing more than a quick fix to push William further in his story, rather than something natural.
However, its Whittaker’s nuanced performance that wins over as he tries to bury his youthful rage under his new religion. When a shift as a farm hand threatens to get in the way of his prayers, William tries to maintain dignity as he contemplates washing in a cow’s trough and kneeling in the manure. It’s truly a heartbreaking scene as, in a world that hates him, William tries to save himself and others by swallowing his rage.
Original review can be found here.