Rent Mister Johnson (1990)

3.2 of 5 from 52 ratings
1h 37min
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British East Africa, 1923. Harry Rudbeck, an ambitious army officer, wants to build a road to bring the outside world to the backwater town where he is posted. Struggling to find ways around Foreign Service bureaucracy, he relies on his resourceful African clerk, Mr. Johnson. But when Johnson's can-do attitude runs afoul of British law, Rudbeck must make a painful decision.
, , , , , , , Femi Fatoba, Kwabena Manso, Hubert Ogunde, Sola Adeyemi, Jerry Linus, George Menta, , Tunde Kelani
William Boyd, Joyce Cary
Video International
Top 10 Best Picture Follow-Ups, Top 10 Golden Bear Winners

1991 Berlinale Silver Bear for Best Actor

Release Date:
Run Time:
97 minutes
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 1.66:1

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Reviews (1) of Mister Johnson

Shenanigans in West Africa - Mister Johnson review by AW

Spoiler Alert

1990 film with Pierce Brosnan in the lead role as army officer Harry Rudbeck, in the years before he became Bond. Beattie Edney (Sylvia Sims' daughter) plays his pretty and tolerant wife, the only white woman in the area.

The standout is Maynard Eziashi in his first film role as the eponymous Mr Johnson, a local clerk who has styled himself as British and adopted colonial traits; wants wealth and civilisation for himself and the area but falls afoul of the straightlaced Foreign Office and army rules, plus his own people. He seems good natured enough initially and tries hard to solve problems, eventually cooking the books to further Brosnan's ambitions to build a road out to civilisation, but as things go on, his actions become a tad more sinister although you feel some sympathy for his plight. Things soon come to a head when an auditor arrives unexpectedly and he's found out.

Filmed interestingly in Nigeria where Australian director Bruce Beresford (directed also Breaker Morant/Driving Miss Daisy) incidentally lived several years. There's red soil and dust everywhere and hundreds of local extras in a rather sparse landscape.

Edward Woodward is a foul mouthed shopkeeper in Fada out in the bush; he's an Aussie-like character; some of his verbal slurs about the natives may grate on ears of the ultrasensitive (I guess this predates our complete reversal into painful wokeness) but remember this is the 1920s.

Not the first outing either for Brosnan, Woodward or Eziashi with this director.

The first half hour tested my tolerance a bit but I urge you to persevere. The story gets more gripping and there's a real dilemma by the end. Brosnan has the right amount of sympathy but grit to do what he has to.

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