When a spate of hate crimes plagues a Montana town, a housewife rallies her neighbors to take a stand in NOT IN THIS TOWN. Based on a true story, this made for-TV-movie approaches outright preachiness, but manages to strike a number of emotional chords.
Brian Schnitzer (Adam Arkin), a Jewish doctor from the East Coast, settles in Billings, MT with his wife Tammy (Kathy Baker), and their children Isaac (Douglas Greer) and Rachel (Hanna Driggs). The Schnitzers soon become aware of a growing white supremacist movement in Billings, which has gotten a
boost from Henry Whitcomb (Ed Begley Jr.), a traveling, charismatic white-power leader.
A gang of thugs under Whitcomb's tutelage, led by young tough Roy Flanders (Bradford Tatum), distribute anti-Semitic tracts near a synagogue and paint graffiti on the exterior of a Native American woman's home. Tammy is outraged and demands a meeting with the Police Chief Wayne Inman (Max Gail
Jr.) Carrying a load of guilt over a previous incident in which he failed to stop a string of hate crimes before they led to murder, Inman springs into action; he pulls in TV news crews and educates his officers in how to handle hate crimes. Tammy spontaneously founds the Montana Coalition for
Human Rights, despite the fact that her husband and grandparents disapprove of her newfound activism.
Whitcomb's thugs escalate their activities, performing various acts of vandalism around town. When a concrete block is thrown through Isaac's bedroom window, Brian can no longer deny the threat to his own children and vows to Tammy that he will no longer ignore or run from prejudice.
While neighbors celebrate their renewed friendships at the Schnitzers' holiday party, Flanders leads his buddies on a tirade of vandalism wherever they find a "Happy Hanukkah" banner, or an antihate poster. Coalition sympathizers simply clean up the mess, and bravely replace each sign. Whitcomb
admits defeat and hits the road, leaving Flanders and his gang behind.
The most annoying aspect of NOT IN THIS TOWN is the fact that characters give speeches rather than engage in conversation. As a result, Tammy's righteous anger and Chief Inman's visionary liberalism sound one-dimensional. Begley's character appears only briefly, thus undercutting the possiblity of
a grand confrontation between the forces of good and evil; however, with the emphasis taken off of Whitcomb's outside influence, the film is thus free to focus on the banal-seeming, local sources of hatred. With a satisfying degree of realism, the movie's conclusion does not suggest that the
do-gooders have actually won the war against the haters in their community, only that they have recognized the enemy and have withstood the battle. Earnest performances all around--especially from Baker (best known for her role on the TV series "Picket Fences") and Gail (who seems comfortably
transplanted straight out of his old "Wojo" character on "Barney Miller")--also help prop up a plot otherwise vulnerable to several "message-movie" cliches. (Profanity, violence, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: NR
- Review: When a spate of hate crimes plagues a Montana town, a housewife rallies her neighbors to take a stand in NOT IN THIS TOWN. Based on a true story, this made for-TV-movie approaches outright preachiness, but manages to strike a number of emotional chords. B… (more)