I was hoping this movie would be better than it is. Even if you don't know the book or the 1962 film version, this movie still has to be disappointing. It is very loosely based on Pär Lagerkvist novella, which tells the story of Barabbas, the bandit who was chosen over Jesus Christ by the people of Jerusalem when given the choice of releasing one prisoner during Passover. Pär Lagerkvist novel is a moving and thoughtful work. The 1962 Dino De Laurentiis production, although it added a great deal of action to the story, caught the tone of the novel, emerging as a moody, almost surreal epic. Unlike the book and De Laurentiis' movie, this made for television version starts before the crucifixion. We quickly learn that Barabbas (Billy Zane) is a real tearaway. He either hangs out at a brothel in town or with his gang in the hills. If they'd packed six-guns back then, he'd have shot up the place. Although the Zealots are involved in guerrilla warfare against the Romans, Barabbas is more interested in holding up the odd caravan or two. There are a number of lacklustre sword fights with the Romans - the production seems a little light on extras - and Barabbas and his crew cook up a scam to rob the promoter of a local gladiatorial show. This sequence, more than any other, undermines the film. Seemingly inspired by the "Spartacus" TV series, it's unbelievable and is reminiscent of the ridiculous action that used to turn up in the old Italian sword and sandal movies of the 50's and 60's. Eventually Barabbas is caught. Condemned to death then spared while Christ is crucified, Barabbas starts to question why he escaped death, and meets Christians whose faith seems indestructible. Although this crisis of conscience could have given the film a little depth especially after he learns of Christ's resurrection, the script goes off on another flight of fancy, as Barabbas becomes Barabbas PI. After dressing up in Roman uniform he interrogates the soldiers who were on guard at the tomb of Jesus. Arriving in Rome after a side trip as a slave in a copper mine, Barabbas is sent undercover by Pontius Pilot to find his niece who has become a Christian, knowing that the sect is about to be blamed for burning Rome. However Barabbas inadvertently betrays them. He lands in prison awaiting execution. The last few scenes have the gravitas lacking in the rest of the film as Barabbas sacrifices himself and is then crucified. Filmed in Tunisia, the scenery looks authentic enough although the film lacks scope and size. But it's the uneven script that sinks it, with much borrowed from other films - not all good ones. A pity really, because Billy Zane actually made a pretty good Barabbas.
Biography / Drama / History
Biography / Drama / History
Billy Zane stars as Barabbas--the man whose life was spared because of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Based on the Nobel Prize in Literature winning novel by Par Lagerkvist, Barabbas is a...
January 13, 2020