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In a rural town in Louisiana, a black Master Sergeant is found shot to death just outside the local Army Base. A military lawyer, also a black man, is sent from Washington to conduct an investigation. Facing an uncooperative chain of command and fearful...
Boy… this has not aged well. I'm a fan of this as a play, but I hated just about everything in this adaptation. Howard E Rollins is good in the lead and a babyfaced Denzel Washington predictably amazing, but a lot of the other actors have no sense of how to tone their performances down from the stage version–they're still projecting every motion to the back rows of the theater. Adolph Caesar in particular is unbearably cheesy as the murder victim (and was inexplicably nominated for an Oscar for it). Norman Jewison was lazily chosen as director for having once done the similar (and better) In the Heat of the Night, and all his choices seem terrible–the cheesy synthesizer soundtrack, the clumsy flashback techniques, milking the comedy of the shock of the "first black officer" to death, stopping the action periodically for Patti LaBelle to sing the blues in a honkytonk.
This script deserves a much better movie someday.
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