Frank Darabont (USA, 1959), who grew up in Hollywood itself, specialized in adaptations of Stephen King novels, starting with
The Shawshank Redemption (1994), an adaptation of
"Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" (1982).
It is a prison movie with a classic "impossible escape" theme
and a stereotypical happy ending.
It is some social and philosophical undercurrents, but mostly it's a conventional melodrama pitting good against evil.
The portrait of the evil man whose greed has no limit is hardly convincing,
and the portrait of the white-collar man becoming a meek but astute convict and then an incredibly smart escaped convict is even less convincing, but both revisit old stereotypes of theater and fiction in a bleak context.
In the first scene we see a young man drinking heavily in his car and holding a gun.
Andy, a banker, is convicted of killing both his wife and her lover.
The prosecution piles up evidence against him at the trial. He denies killing them but he is convicted, and the judge admonishes him for showing no remorse.
The film moves to a maximum-security prison where an aging black convict, nicknamed "Red" is being denied parole. Red's voice informs us that he is the prison's middleman, who procures goods from the outside.
The truck arrives carrying the new convicts, including Andy. They are welcomed
by the shouts and jeers of the existing convicts.
The warden gives the new convicts a brief welcome speech, claiming that he only believes in two things: discipline and the Bible.
The captain of the guards, Hadley, demonstrates the concept of discipline by beating up the man who asks a question. One of the new convicts weeps that he doesn't belong there and the guards beat him to death.
Andy keeps quiet. The first convinct to talk to him is the old librarian,
The second one is Bogs, the leader of a gang called the "Sisters" that terrorizes the other convincts.
Andy finally approaches someone: he asks Red for a rock hammer, pretending to be an amateur geologist.
Asked what he did to end up in prison, Andy claims he's innocent. Red laughs and replies that everybody there is innocent.
Andy is assigned to work in the laundry. One night, as he is walking alone,
he is attacked by the Sisters. Andy puts a fight but is sodomized anyway.
Red's voiceover informs us that the Sisters keep raping Andy for two years.
Then the convicts were offered the opportunity to work outside the prison.
The ones with money bribed the guards to be selected. Andy and Red were among
the winners. While working at the project, Andy overheard the sadistic Hadley
complaining about taxes. Andy is an experienced accountant and offers to help him avoid the taxes.
During a movie projection, Andy asks Red to procure him a poster of actress Rita Hayworth.
Minutes later he is attacked by the Sisters and Bogs demands that Andy performs oral sex on him. Andy refuses and is beaten almost to death. This time, however, Hadley beats Bogs so badly that Bogs is handicapped for life. The Sisters learn the lesson that Andy is protected by the guards.
Red gets Andy the poster of Rita Hayworth, which Andy hangs in his cell.
By now Red has become Andy's best friend.
The prison warden hears of Andy's accounting skills and Andy also pretends to be an avid Bible reader.
Andy gets promoted to assistant librarian, working with the old convict who spent his entire adult life in that prison. Andy gets himself a new mission. He starts writing letters to the politicians asking for funds to expand the library.
The warden allows him to do it because Andy is helping the warden with his scheme to make money out of the convict's work.
One day the old librarian gets the news that he is being released and... goes crazy. He grabs a knife and threatens to kill a fellow convict, because it's the only way to remain in jail: the old man doesn't want freedom. Once outside, he tries to readapt, but loneliness eventually destroys his psyche and he hangs himself in the room that the government gave him.
Andy's weekly letters finally succeed (after six years): the politicians send a whole bunch of books for the prison library. The package includes the record of an opera aria. Andy is so moved by the music that he broadcasts to the whole prison. over the prison speakers. The prisoners are mesmerized by the music. The wardens have to break down the door to make him stop.
Andy has become the warden's trusted accountant. Andy knows how to invest the money made by the prison and avoid taxes. The books are kept in the warden's safe.
The warden is becoming a millionaire thanks to Andy.
Andy launders the money under the name "Randall Stephens", a non-existent person for which Andy managed to obtain valid identification and a bank account.
Andy philosophizes with Red: when he was free, he was an honest person; now that he is in jail, he has become a real criminal.
Red has again an interview about his parole, which is again rejected: it is just a formality, it always gets rejected.
Andy keeps writing to the politicians and eventually obtains funds to build a new library. The prison warden gets credit for an innovative prison.
After 18 year of prison a new young convict arrives, Tommy, and Andy befriends him. Andy teaches him first how to read and write and then math.
Tommy is ready for the examination. But Tommy is depressed because he feels that he is failing. One day he tells Red that a former cellmate in a different prison confessed to him killing Andy's wife and lover.
Red is shocked to hear that Andy is really innocent.
Andy immediately goes to the warden to ask that his case be reviewed, but the warden has no intention of losing him and sentences him to a month in solitary confinement.
Meanwhile, Tommy receives a letter that he passed the examination.
One night the warden calls Tommy outside the prison at night and asks him if he is really sure of what he told Andy and if he would be willing to swear to it in front of a jury. Tommy answers in the affirmative and thus sentences himself to death: Hadley shoots him in the back and the warden makes it look like it was an escape attempt.
The warden breaks the news to Andy and forces him to resume their racket.
Andy, desperate, confides to Red a location in the fields where he has hidden something important, but he does not tell him what.
When Red asks for a rope, Red suspects that he wants to commit suicide.
Instead, Andy escapes: he spent years digging a tunnel with the rock hammer, hiding it behind the famous poster. And, without telling anyone, he finally succeeded.
We now understand the purpose of his first purchases in the prison: the rock hammer and the poster of Rita Hayworth.
A flashback (narrated by Red) shows how Andy stole incriminating documents from the warden, took off with the documents proving the identity of the fictitious "Randall Stephens",
and crawled into the sewers to freedom.
Andy shows up at the bank and cashes Stephens' bank account, which is the warden's money, all the loot accumulated in the prison's illicit dealings.
He then sends the incriminating documents to the newspaper. The police arrest Hadley and the other corrupt guards. The warden kills himself.
Nineteen years have passed since Andy was incarcerated.
One day Ray a postcard with no text, only the name of a Mexican town by the ocean.
Red is summoned again to the review board. This time he is arrogant and indifferent, but this time his parole is granted.
Red is a free man. He is assigned the same room where the old librarian hanged himself and the same job at the supermarket. One day he visits the location that Andy told him about. Andy left money and note for Red to join him in Mexico.
Red takes a bus and makes it to Andy's beach.
His second King adaptation, The Green Mile (1999)
His third King adaptation, The Mist (2007)