Thursday, January 19, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—A Soldier’s Story (1984) ***

PG, 100 min.
Director: Norman Jewison
Writer: Charles Fuller (also play)
Starring: Howard E. Rollins Jr., Adolph Caesar, Denzel Washington, Art Evans, Larry Riley, David Allen Grier, Dennis Lipscomb, David Harris, Robert Townsend, William Allen Young, Trey Wilson

Denzel Washington is an actor who is fueled by intensity. Even in his smaller early roles, like that of Private Peterson in Norman Jewison’s adaptation of the play “A Soldier’s Story” by Charles Fuller, Washington’s passion almost can’t be contained in the supporting role.

The story is a murder mystery involving the shooting of a colored non-commissioned officer outside a Louisiana Army base near the beginning of World War II. The murder appears to be an attack by citizens of the small town of Tynen, where the Klan has been known to lynch soldiers they don’t like seeing in uniform. When a black officer is assigned to investigate the case, the evidence leads back to the base. But will the Army allow a black officer the authority to accuse white personnel of the murder of a black man?

Washington’s role is about the third largest of an ensemble cast; but judging from his fairly low listing on the cast credits, he had yet to establish himself as the powerhouse actor he would become. This role certainly laid the groundwork for his career. He would later work with Jewison again in the leading role of “The Hurricane”, the true story of Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, a boxer who was wrongly convicted of murder.

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