MRS. SOFFEL (1984)

Based on a true story of two death-row-imprisoned brothers about to be hanged, and then rescued by the warden's wife... the titular character played by a classic-melodrama-suited Diane Keaton... these convicted killers have very little interesting about them, while the leader, played by Mel Gibson, looks like... well... a young Mel Gibson (opposite Matthew Modine), who just about any woman would fall for...

And being a likeable, wink-at-rebellion movie-rebel countered by a bullying guard, there's absolutely no edge (or glory) to his performance that would, in a better film, provide Gibson a possible Oscar nomination... he simply plays it too safe and affable here, as does the director... Who painted a deliberately bleak canvas nicely recreating turn-of-the-century rural America in its mahogany landscapes, dire factories and the actual prison... But what's here is more a Harlequin Romance montage than either an effective prison-plot-escape thriller or true story that needed telling: because storywise, MRS. SOFFEL is more whispered than spoken and, soon after, completely forgotten. Rates: **

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