Robert Duvall has many memorable lines in the low-budget indie gem Get Low, but it's the quiet moments—the close-ups of that worn face and those sad eyes, the labored breathing, the creaking floor echoing the old man's aching joints—that speak the loudest.

The six-time Oscar Award nominee was doing what he does best: playing a broken, solitary soul in desperate need of redemption. He's been at it for almost 50 years, as the ghostly Arthur "Boo" Radley in 1962's To Kill a Mockingbird; as a washed-up, alcoholic country singer in 1983's Tender Mercies (for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor); and as a charismatic Pentecostal preacher with a wandering eye in 1997's The Apostle.

In 2010's Get Low, set in the Deep South of the 1930s, Duvall plays Felix Bush, a reclusive hermit who has chosen a life of solitude as penance for a sin he committed as a young man—one for which he believes he cannot be forgiven. He decides to set up a funeral party, inviting all the locals to come and tell stories about him, while he's still alive and kicking and wielding a shotgun. It's a Southern folk tale with a script that can only be described as Horton Foote meets Flannery O'Connor.

Duvall, 80, told Christianity Today that he is drawn to playing broken characters because they "make good drama. If people don't have conflicts, contradictions, and faults, there is no drama." There were broken characters—and drama aplenty—in the top films of 2010, with Duvall as the poster child. (He played another broken soul a little more than a year earlier, in a cameo in the post-apocalyptic saga The Road.)

Hollywood's depiction of flawed characters needing redemption is nothing new. But 2010 had more of such movies than usual. We ...

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