CONVICTS begins on Christmas eve, 1902, as Soll Gautier, a crazed alcoholic who owns a sugar cane plantation, wanders around with a shotgun. Ben Johnson, a black sharecropper blessed with good sense, is in charge of the plantation. A visiting niece and her husband do nothing but drink and sleep. Also in residence is 13-year-old Horace Robedaux, who tends Soll’s store. Horace is overdue for his menial wage with which he hopes to buy a tombstone for his father’s grave. In the background toils a gang of black convicts, who serve as a cheap but volatile labor in the cane fields. As Christmas Eve grinds on, Soll’s paranoia worsens. Finally, he dies. Conducting his funeral, Ben emphasizes the futility of riches and earthly toil. In spite of our ambitions, everyone ends up in the ground.
CONVICTS presents the bad news of the Book of Ecclesiastes: earthly pursuits are vanity, whether you are king of Israel or a plantation owner. Robert Duvall’s portrayal of a demented alcoholic who spouts endless profanities is excruciatingly accurate and may warrant an Academy Award. Cast performances are credible, as is the moody cinematography. Unfortunately, the overall effect is destroyed by a virtual absence of plot, which produces more boredom than insight.
(B, LLL, V, A/D) An attempted dramatization of Ecclesiastes weighted down by 10 obscenities & 45 profanities. Also, a man is shot to death and alcoholism & intoxication.