SCREEN GEM: Nurse Betty (2000)

By EW Staff
Updated February 18, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST
Nurse Betty: Bruce Birmelin/ Universal/ The Kobal Collection

Great role: Morgan Freeman in ”Nurse Betty”

PREMISE Charlie (Freeman, left) and Wesley (Chris Rock, right) are father-son contract killers on the trail of Betty (Renée Zellweger), a waitress so traumatized by having seen Charlie and Wesley kill her drug-dealing husband that she’s broken from reality and imagines herself to be a character in her favorite soap opera. As he follows her across the country, Charlie starts to idealize the unfortunate Betty and develops tender feelings for her.

FUN FACT Freeman and Rock’s roles were originally written for white actors, but producer Steve Golin, recognizing that philosophical hitmen had quickly become a cliché after Pulp Fiction, decided he needed only to change the characters’ race to make these stock figures seem fresh. (It also helped that Rock improvised much of his dialogue.)

WHY IT’S GREAT It’s fun to see the usually noble Freeman play an irritable killer. Of course, he ends up ennobling his character anyway, and his affection for Zellweger’s young, white, pluckily determined waitress anticipates Freeman’s bond with Hilary Swank’s character in Million Dollar Baby.