- Actors: Maynard Eziashi, Robert Armstrong, Pierce Brosnan, James Bell, Edward Woodward
- Directors: Bruce Beresford
- Format: Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
- Language: English
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Number of discs: 1
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: Criterion
- Release Date: Sept. 22 2015
- Run Time: 102 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- ASIN: B00ZVBG3G8
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #93,815 in Movies & TV Shows (See Top 100 in Movies & TV Shows)
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British East Africa, 1923. Harry Rudbeck, an ambitious army officer, wants to build a road to bring the outside world to the backwater town where he is posted. Struggling to find ways around Foreign Service bureaucracy, he relies on his resourceful African clerk, Mr. Johnson. But when Johnson's can-do attitude runs afoul of British law, Rudbeck must make a painful decision. The film is deliberately paced, and the topnotch cinematography, art direction, and soundtrack all conspire to immerse you into the sweltering heat of East Africa. Maynard Eziashi gives winning performance as Johnson, a man so intent on becoming important that it destroys him. Like many of director Bruce Beresford's movies, this is a clear-eyed look at the way a collision of two cultures can lead to tragedy. Rudbeck must ultimately face the fact that his own ambition leads to the death of his friend, and Pierce Brosnan (as Rudbeck) and Beresford refuse to sentimentalize the man at all. Among Beresford's films, this is much closer in tone to Breaker Morant than to the kinder, gentler Driving Miss Daisy. --Geof Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The outcome is tragic, yet the principal characters have nothing but fine motives for what they are about. Culture and other impersonal forces have the final say, and one is left to wonder if progress, or may I say "progress," should be forced on a reluctant people.
Director Bruce Beresford has been rather unfairly criticized for lop-sided portrayals of virtuous native cultures versus corruptive western civilization, but as with his superb "Black Robe" movie "Mister Johnson" shows some of the less flattering sides of primitive societies. Indeed, "Black Robe" set off a minor spate of protest for its unblinkingly frank portrayal of Indian tribes in North America several centuries ago.
Ultimately it's probably safe to say that "Mister Johnson" gives a fairly sympathetic showing of the Africans suddenly entangled in the road project headed up by Pierce Brosnan's character, but does so without truckling. This movie also shows that Brosnan has a broader range than just playing Bond, James Bond.
As to the film, it contains beautiful African scenery which makes the poor DVD transfer that much more regretable. The acting is first rate. And the views of West African village society are insightful. However, the storyline is a rehash of the typical British colonial flick...you know, native mistreated by the overlords, gets into trouble and ends up road kill on the imperial super highway. Too bad that the director could not develop the characters better.
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