October 1, 2018  (Web Review)

The Jericho Mile

Kino Lorber, 97 min., not rated, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Michael Mann’s 1979 made-for-TV film deservedly picked up three Emmy Awards and a Directors Guild statuette. Mann, the future auteur of Thief, Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, and many other films, co-wrote and directed this grim but gutsy prison drama about a runner who could be the fastest man alive, although no one would know that beyond jail walls. Peter Strauss, one of the most ubiquitous TV actors of the 1970s, plays Murphy, a convicted murderer trying to keep his head down for the duration of his life sentence. He runs every day to keep body and soul together, and his speed does not go unnoticed by authorities, who convince him to enter a competition. That decision and related training spark a conflict between rival gangs (Brian Dennehy costars as a gang leader), leading to an explosive situation. Meanwhile, Murphy must contend with hypocrisy and efforts to get inside his head by the racing competition’s powers-that-be. A gritty story with a bittersweet conclusion, The Jericho Mile is built on Mann’s signature taut editing of action scenes that are the narrative soul of his films. Extras include audio commentary by film historian Lee Gambin. Recommended. (T. Keogh)