By Ashley Hillard
A Vietnam vet, Henry Marrow (A.C. Sanford) returns home to 70s era North Carolina and is killed over a misunderstanding with local racists. Unfortunately, this film is based on a true story. The film strives to highlight the inequality present in the United States in the 1970s but the filmmakers aren’t sure how to tell the story. Ricky Schroder plays local minister Vernon Tyson, who tries to help bring equality to a town about to explode into violence.
This could have been a much better story if it focused on the central figures involved instead of involving so many characters that it’s difficult to keep track of what’s going on. A big problem with the story is that it doesn’t focus on Marrow even though his story is the tipping point of the town’s uprising. The audience doesn’t get to know him beyond being a nice guy in the community with a wife and kids in addition to being a vet. It would have been nice to spend more time following his story. Tyson is also a central figure in the story, but his story is buried by others. A stand out performance comes from Nate Parker (”Secret Life of Bees”) who plays Ben Chavis, a high school teacher / activist that gets his students involved in the movement against racism.
If the stories were interwoven and the central characters were more fully developed, this could have been a powerful story. Unfortunately, it is so scattered that it makes it difficult to be emotionally involved in spite of how upsetting the events are. The run time is also far too long, making it seem as though director / writer Jeb Stuart (writer of ”The Fugitive”) wasn’t sure how to adapt Tim Tyson’s (son of Vernon) novel and editor Toby Yates (”The Midnight Meat Train”) wasn’t sure how to cut down scenes to make them more emotionally driven.