Tucson Weekly

DIRECTED BY: John Singleton

REVIEWED: 03-06-97

In the early 1920s, a small, prosperous black-owned and -operated town was brutally wiped out by an angry mob of whites from next door. This true story, which only came to light recently when the few remaining survivors finally broke their silence, would seem a powerful statement of prejudice and mob-rule hatred against well-adjusted, self-empowered African Americans. But in the hands of director John Singleton, it instead descends disappointingly into vacuous, hokey Hollywoodism. There are moments, especially in the first half, of anxiety and outrage, and credible acting from Ving Rhames and Jon Voight, among others; but Singleton and his screenwriters veer wildly from known accounts in order to make the film "marketable," mixing in elements of westerns, after-school special sermonizing, and unlikely (however welcome) moments of good fortune on which the actual survivors almost certainly could not have counted. Care and effort have been put into this film. It's a shame Singleton was unable to trust the material to stand on its own.

--Piers Marchant

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