Plot: Jefferson Bailey (Morgan Simpson) has a deep love for the blues, but after he froze on stage one night and was ridiculed by the audience, he has been unable to perform live again. His music wasn’t the only downturn since that event, as he has fallen onto hard times in general, with immense debt, an alcohol dependence, and some poor life choices that have landed him at rock bottom, more or less. He is so used to being down, when Augy (Michael Clarke Duncan) shows up and informs him he is due an inheritance, Bailey assumes it is a pittance and refuses to accept it. But when his affair with a married woman comes to light, he decides to head to pick up his inheritance, to let things cool down. So he and Augy hit the road, but what inheritance awaits Bailey and will the trip give him more than he bargained for?
Entertainment Value: Redemption Road has some good performances, but I found it to be a little too preachy and predictable. But I know inspirational tales of personal growth and redemption have an audience, so if you appreciate this kind of approach, you’ll likely find more to like here. The story travels a well worn road, with a down on his luck musician running from his past, only to find some comfort and wisdom in a new friend, who might have the key to his redemption. The movie also has elements of religion and the perils of alcohol abuse, but these are more hinted at to help flesh out Augy as a man with a past he has overcome. Mario Van Peebles directs and while the theme is one of redemption, the tone can be dark at times and doesn’t take always easy roads. I liked that Bailey didn’t cakewalk into his happy ending and had to deal with his own demons, some of which were knocking hard on his door. I also think those who like music driven movies will appreciate this one, as it is rooted in the blues world and makes several stops at small venues for live performances. In the end, Redemption Road didn’t speak to me, but I think it was well made and if you appreciate the blues, Michael Clarke Duncan, or redemption stories, give it a shot.
This movie has a rock solid cast with some notable names involved, including Michael Clarke Duncan in a prominent role. He isn’t the central character of the movie, but he is present in most scenes and has an integral role in the narrative, so this isn’t just a cameo or brief appearance. His performance is good, with his usual warmth and charisma, though he is more reserved than usual, though he is able to let his sense of humor shine through at times. Luke Perry has a small, but fun role as a dialed up redneck who is always pissed off and looking for trouble. His performance is a little over the top given the rest of the cast’s approach, but it adds some kinetic energy and the movie benefits from that. The lead here is Morgan Simpson, who also wrote the story and co-wrote the script, but he is out of his element here and is one of the weaker points of the movie. I think with a more seasoned, skilled lead in place, Redemption Road could have been a much better movie. The cast here also includes Taryn Manning, Tom Skerritt, and Kiele Sanchez.