Rooted in the true story of the unlikely friendship between a millionaire Texan art dealer and a homeless ex-con, faith-based drama Same Kind of Different as Me carries with it a slight whiff of that unfortunate cinematic cliché the Magical Negro: the wise black character who helps the white protagonist to be a better person. (See The Legend of Bagger Vance and The Green Mile for examples.) Yet it transcends the trope thanks to the sincerity of the story and the quality of the performances.
Greg Kinnear plays Ron Hall, the rich guy caught out in an affair by his wife Debbie (Renée Zellweger) and obliged as penance to help out at the Fort Worth homeless shelter where she volunteers. Initially reluctant to roll up his sleeves, he takes even more prodding to accost the shelter’s scariest client, Djimon Hounsou’s raging, baseball-bat wielding Denver Moore, nicknamed Suicide.
Denver has good reasons to be suspicious of white people, having survived a near lynching in his youth as well as enduring years of grinding labour as a sharecropper and a decade in prison. But Debbie, convinced Denver is the figure that has appeared to her in a prophetic-seeming dream, takes pains to seek him out and insists Ron do the same. Over time, an improbable bond forms.
Based on the bestselling memoir co-written by Hall and Moore, Same Kind of Different as Me is awkward in places, a tad bland in others, but genuinely moving overall. Kinnear is perfectly cast as an Everyman with feet of clay, while Zellweger radiates goodness as the gentle but firm, and remarkably forgiving, spouse. Best of all is Hounsou, whose eyes in his early scenes convey a pain and fury that affords this otherwise feelgood film a glimpse of a harsher reality.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 119 mins. Director Michael Carney
Available on DVD & Digital from Paramount.