4 November 2014 | Prismark10
This is a kind of made for cable TV film that I can imagine was trailed every 15 minutes in the run up to its first showing. The shocking true story of the murder of James Byrd jr in 1998 when he was chained to the back of a pickup truck and dragged through the roads in Jasper, East Texas. Byrd was black and his murderers were three white men.
Obviously this was a horrific crime, the drama is interspersed with news footage of politicians commenting on this even including President Bill Clinton.
Jon Voight plays the considerate and wily Sheriff Billy Rowles who investigates the crime and finds the assailants rather quickly. Louis Gossett jr is the town mayor.
However we get to know little about the victim. Its rather hinted from early scenes that he had been a bad boy in the past and in other scenes it was alleged that he was a drug dealer. We also do not find out why the young guys decided to commit such a crime.
We see footage of the drag scenes in flashback, obviously the filmmakers decide to tread the line by not being too exploitative but there are some graphic scenes of the aftermath.
The film turns to the examination of how the events caused waves to the town, where racism was hidden and the events brought the media as well as the Black Panthers and the Ku Klux Klan into the town and turn it into a powder keg. We also have the case reaching the court as the men stand trial.
Yet this part of the story is rather uninteresting and perfunctory. Its very much highlights the flaws of these type of made for cable TV films. A shocking true event turned into a true movie of the week in a sanitized way. The budget is blown in getting the services of two Oscar winning actors but the production is sub par with lacklustre cinematography.