Davis stars as the Billy Hayes in this film that is modeled after the
real life Billy Hayes, who was sentenced to a Turkish prison for possession
and eventually smuggling after the prosecution appealed his case to
a higher court. Politics is the ruthless game that used Billy Hayes
as a scapegoat. Brad Davis gives a gutwrenching, energetic and honest
performance as a man that was naïve to the laws of a far less lenient
country. The opening scene in this film shows Billy nervously making
his way through Turkish officials while carrying a belt of hashish he
planned on taking back to the states for he and his friends to play
puff,puff pass. After being apprehended he is split from his girlfriend
who had no clue about his concealed drugs. From here he tries one escape
on foot and later on is prosecuted for 4 years for possession.
film doesn’t have a light note from here on out as Billy Hayes serves
his time but eventually gets his hopes snatched from him when he gets
an additional 30 years for smuggling. His loving father can’t help
him due to the example the Turkish government is trying to make out
of Billy. Brad Davis was said to be a method actor before the scenes
but whatever his tactic he came off as legit as any actor I’ve ever
scene. Throughout the film you will see him nervous, enraged, scared
and any other prison life emotion one may expect from this film. Brad
Davis is surrounded by an equally talented supporting cast that includes
Randy Quaid as the always eager to escape inmate Jimmy Booth, John Hurt
as the resident stoner Max, Paul L. Smith as the bruiting warden Hamidou
and the Paolo Bonacelli as Rifki, another warden that at one point ruins
Billy’s escape plan’s.
films title derives from the prison escape plan of creating your own
way out of the penal system. The time I spent with the characters was
interesting. The camaraderie shared between the inmates that Billy buddied
up with was incredible to watch. The tone of the film was constantly
dark while we constantly hoped for Billy but it was just as easy to
give up on him when all the cards dealt to him were brutally unfair.
While empathizing for his character a viewer should understand he was
wrong. Still when understanding that Billy wasn’t a pusher and he
was just trying to spark a couple of owl’s at home with some buddies,
it sure sucked to see him get cruel punishment.
film could have been meaner but it carefully walked the line. Today
the film might be considered tame after watching show’s like “Oz”
that were basically worth watching on a Soap Opera level to see who
was next to go out with a shiv to the jugular. Instead this film made
the characters realistically nasty. While some situations were completely
unjust I never felt that the warden Hamidou was a complete lunatic.
He was just an oversized man that kept his order with a swift paddle
to the foot or a bitch slap that would easily leave any man’s teeth
on the floor. The point of the film is Billy Hayes was under the impression
that he would spend a certain amount of time in prison and then be set
free. The physical violence he went through and nasty conditions he
lived in during he well behaved stint were enough for the crime he committed.
When seeing his foul mouthed and rightfully angry speech in the court
room you will be in awe of Brad Davis spot on performance. All the right
notes are hit and as a viewer I couldn’t wait to see him make it out
of his terrible situation. He gets brought to a disgusting point in terms of the violence he unleashes in the infamous tongue spitting scene but by the point I was cheering for him.
culture is explored in the Turkish jail and this includes ass stabbing
for revenge to avoid hitting the organs that will kill and the always
uncomfortable gay scene that doesn’t go too far. Actually I couldn’t
tell if Billy’s character was welcoming his inmates come on in the
shower or not. He turns him down but it seems he wanted the affection.
Anyway that is not important. What is important is that Alan Parker
and Oliver Stone along with the many producers of this wonderful film
crafter a story about hope, rage and the careful line a man must walk
when being in another country.
30th Anniversay edition includes three documentaries that
include the following. The Producers goes through each producers and
Alan Parker’s accounts of the origins of “Midnight Express”. The
Production of course is about the actual filming and excellent locations
of the film with some talk about the homosexual controversy, the studios
disapproval of the ending and Brad Davis’s method exercises. The Finished
film goes through the initial standing ovation reception in Cannes to
the critical backlash after the Turkish deemed the films portrayal of
their people to be one dimensional. Last but not least this must have
package includes Alan Parker’s personal, frank and informative essay
about the entire production what is easy his biggest and most memorable
movie that still holds up to this very day.
Films like “Shawshank Redemption”, “Murder in the First”, Brokedown
Palace” and “Return to Paradise” all owe a huge debt to this flawless
effort by was a wonderful group effort. Peter Guber rolled the dice
with this film by executive producing as he could have lost a chunk
of change because this film not profiting dented his pockets big time.
This film was a part of a two picture kind of deal where “Midnight
Express” has to make money in order for Guber to gain profits from
“The Deep”. Brad Davis and the entire cast deserve much credit as
everyone offered different whether they be eccentric like John Hurt’s
character or gutsy like Randy Quaids character. Paul L. Smith didn’t
say much and I believe he said zero in English but he was a powerhouse
presence. Mike Kellen played Billy’s father and he offered a lot to
his role. The pain in his face when realizing he can’t rescue his
son from the strict government was moving. Whether the film is an actual
representation of the events or the Turkish people is not the issue
for me. The film by Alan Parker and the screenplay of Oliver Stone turned
Billy Hayes story into one of the best prison tales you will ever see.