The intentions are unassailable: to dramatize a forgotten injustice and sear it into contemporary memory so it's never allowed to happen again. But the movie is long and didactic, undermined by the faintly pious air of an educational slide show.
Central Florida, 1923: Rosewood is an isolated, relatively prosperous African-American town coexisting uneasily with its nearest neighbor, impoverished and largely white Sumner. Three simultaneous events shatter the fragile peace. A black convict escapes from a nearby chain gang. A self-assured
black veteran, portentously named Mann (Ving Rhames), arrives in Rosewood. And a white Sumner woman (Catherine Kellner) claims she was assaulted by a black stranger. Drunken rednecks form a lynch mob to avenge the purported honor of Southern womanhood (even though they know she's a liar) and vent
their fury at a world in which hardworking black people can get ahead while pig-ignorant, white-skinned layabouts fall behind. It's unfortunate that the film's best-written characters -- decent but ineffectual Sheriff Walker (Michael Rooker) and Rosewood shopkeeper John Wright (Jon Voight) -- are
white. Both grapple with divided loyalties, are tested and torn by circumstance, and must make hard, well-dramatized choices. It's even more unfortunate that the strong, silent Mr. Mann -- a wholly fictional character -- is such an outrageous, action-movie cliche. His eleventh-hour escape from
the noose is accomplished with the help of a trained horse, for heaven's sake! Despite fine performances from Don Cheadle, Esther Rolle and a host of less well-known performers, most of Rosewood's residents are two-dimensional paragons of righteousness and decency. That certainly doesn't lessen
the horror when the mob comes howling to their doors, but it makes their stories less powerful than they have every right to be.
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: R
- Review: The intentions are unassailable: to dramatize a forgotten injustice and sear it into contemporary memory so it's never allowed to happen again. But the movie is long and didactic, undermined by the faintly pious air of an educational slide show. Central F… (more)