28 August 2002 | bob the moo
Some clichés but mostly very well made and provides no easy answers until a terribly clichéd ending
When a group of young black men run out of gas on a quiet road across from New York they get out to ask the motorist behind for help. However the woman motorist suspects the worst and one of the men tries to drag her out of the car to steal it. However the car phone allows the police to catch the 4 men and they are charged with the women's murder. The case seems relatively straightforward until activist Rev. Walton begins to turn to the media and makes the whole trial into a race issue, leaving the woman's husband and his lawyer frustrated by the direction of the media spin. But as one character says `This is America, it's all about race'.
When I approached this I assumed it would be a court room thriller TVM sort of thing with a good (if solid) cast. However after 20 minutes I was pleasantly surprised. It has all the trapping so a courtroom TV drama but it allows itself to be a lot more than that. In fact the actual case is really only the setting for a bigger picture. The film instead looks at race, justice and the media in America. It makes some very obvious and simple points (eg a newscaster is given the job because she is `of colour' and hence the network cannot be accused of bias) however it makes deeper better points as well.
The film's strength to me was the way it didn't give many answers but mostly raised issues without providing a way out that was left for us to think about. We saw things on both sides of the arguments. This is best seen in the actual murder itself the prosecution say it was an attack and the defence saying it was a misunderstanding that got out of control we see it as an audience and it's difficult to tell who's right, it's a mix of both. This is the same throughout it's difficult to come down on either side of the fence.
The film does have weakness and it does use a bit too much character stereotyping to be great. The black men are a mix of the `gansgta type' and the `straight A student just trying to get outa da hood' type. Also the ending is, plain and simple, terrible. It is so bad and obvious that you can guess it now! It almost totally ruins the thoughtful debate that had gone before it's like the makers couldn't end on a thoughtful note and just needed a normal thriller ending.
The solid cast are all very good (despite some stereotype and cliché) Abraham, Hines et al may not be great leading men but they hold this film up well and the support cast is full of well know faces that add to the idea of depth and quality.
Overall this is excellent. It may not be the best film ever made but lets not forget this is a TVM. It is thoughtful and never gives us easy answers instead asking many questions. Only the occasional stereotype and a terrible, terrible ending spoil it by leaving a nasty taste in the mouth after a clever and well developed script had been well put on the screen.