Malevolence

  • 1999
  • Movie
  • R
  • Thriller

Though it changes the names of the participants, this pseudo-docudrama posits that the FBI framed James Earl Ray for the killing of Martin Luther King. Historical revisionism, horrendous acting, and anti-racist moralizing make strange bedfellows in this spurious action picture, which mines little suspense from its FBI-bashing premise. As a ten year-old in...read more

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Reviewed by Robert Pardi
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Though it changes the names of the participants, this pseudo-docudrama posits that the FBI framed James Earl Ray for the killing of Martin Luther King. Historical revisionism, horrendous acting, and anti-racist moralizing make strange bedfellows in this spurious action picture, which mines little suspense from its FBI-bashing premise. As a ten year-old in 1938, Billy Bob Jones (T.J. McInturff) stabbed high-school athlete Alvin Douglas (Michael Jay Green), who was trying to rape Billy Bob's sister, Heather (Suzanne Snyder). Douglas is crippled and Billy Bob ends up a resident of various juvenile and adult penal facilities. After being re-arrested on a stolen weapon charge in 1964, 36-year-old Billy Bob falls under the spell of KKK advocate Jim Bradley (Tom Bower).

When Billy Bob and Jim take it upon themselves to hijack an armored van instead of beating up a prostitute as the KKK ordered, their disappointed Grand Wizard sets them up. Jim is gunned down during the hold-up, while Billy Bob nets a twenty year stretch in the penitentiary, where he's persecuted by Warden Walker (Brion James). Meanwhile, FBI leaders and a political powerbroker who calls himself "Mr. Williams" (Tim Thomerson) are surreptitiously orchestrating the termination of charismatic African-American gubernatorial candidate Reverend Luther Thomas (Lou Rawls). First, the FBI plants field operatives Clarke (Michael McGrady) and Ames (Michael Stone) at Billy Bob's prison, where they impress Billy Bob by killing Black convict leader Henry Wilson (Charlie Robinson). Then, en route to court, Billy Bob, Ames, and Clarke are set free by alleged KKK loyalists. But while Billy Bob rests at a motel, Ames and Clarke murder Reverend Thomas with a rifle bearing Billy Bob's fingerprints. Despite its potentially explosive politics, this shallow thriller spends less time worrying about the FBI's plan to foment a race war for its own nefarious reasons than establishing personal reasons for Billy Bob's tormentors make him their fall guy. Additionally, the production design and period hairstyles are sometimes less than convincing. Eschewing any serious examination of James Earl Ray's disavowals, this is a tabloid-style thriller that dishes out conspiracy hogwash as if it were Hollywood gossip. Implausible and tasteless, it really goes off the deep end with Billy Bob's soulful one-night stand with a nubile motel clerk who chooses to expire in a hail of police fire as the coppers arrest Billy Bob.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Though it changes the names of the participants, this pseudo-docudrama posits that the FBI framed James Earl Ray for the killing of Martin Luther King. Historical revisionism, horrendous acting, and anti-racist moralizing make strange bedfellows in this sp… (more)

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