Originally released in theatres in 1990 Convicts was directed by producer/director/actor Peter Masterson (father of Mary Stuart Masterson). The screenplay was written by Horton Foote, who also wrote the screenplays for "Tender Mercies" and "To Kill a Mockingbird". This is a story about what it was like living in the south on a plantation at the turn of the 20th century. It is a somewhat slow moving film, but if you are the type who does not require car chases and explosions to keep you interested this film could be for you. It must be said that there is probably no one better than Robert Duvall at portraying a character from the south.
Convicts takes place in rural Texas (the Gulf Coast) in 1902 on a rundown sugarcane plantation. Horace (Lucas Haas – Witness and Mars Attacks) is a 13 year-old boy who works in the general store on the plantation. He is doing this in order to save enough money to buy a tombstone for his father's grave; his father has been dead for one year. The plantation is owned by Soll (Robert Duvall) and he uses convicts to work the land. The convicts are all black and Soll does not trust them. He does, however, rely heavily on three blacks who work for him, Ben (James Earl Jones), Martha (Staletta Dupois – Big Momma's House and The Notebook), and Leroy (Calvin Levels). Soll is quite old, drinks a lot, and has no memory. Horace has worked for 6 months on the plantation without getting paid, so he confronts Soll and tells him he wants his pay. Soll invites Horace up to the house to get some money so he can pay him what he owes him. After opening up a suitcase which he believed contained his money and finding it empty, Soll becomes more agitated and delusional than he already had been.
Soll and Horace strike up an odd friendship and Soll does not want to let Horace out of his sight. They sit together in Soll's room in the house and Soll regales Horace with the stories of his life. Soll becomes more and more delusional and starts to believe that there are some convicts in his closet. He begins to fire his gun at the closet in order to "kill" the convicts. Each time he does so he forces Horace or Leroy to look in the closet for the convicts he thinks he has shot. Soll tells Horace that he is dying and they should make a casket for him. He makes Horace promise not to leave him alone until he is in his casket.
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