Rosewood

on February 21, 1997 by Jose Martinez
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   John Singleton's newest release examines an appalling slice of American history, an actual incident everyone would rather forget or deny. In his fourth film, Singleton ("Higher Learning") tells the story of Rosewood, a flourishing black town in central Florida, which in 1923 was burned to the ground by whites in a neighboring town. Fueled by a white woman's fabricated story that she was raped by a black stranger, a mob declares war on an unsuspecting community.
   There are drawbacks the audience must endure in this film, one being the monotone drawl of Ving Rhames ("Striptease") in his portrayal of Mann, a World War I veteran passing through. Although Rhames' acting style added character depth to his earlier performance as a menacing mobster in "Pulp Fiction," it staggers the pace in this film. The lone good white man, John Wright ("Midnight Cowboy's" John Voight), jumps back and forth between what is right and what is expected of him. Ultimately, he comes off as a wishy-washy Schindler, only to save the day at the film's end. Another exasperating character is Sheriff Walker ("The Trigger Effect's" Michael Rooker). Screaming his lines throughout the film, the sheriff is a first-hand witness to all the bloodshed, knowing all along the assaulted female is lying; yet he stands idly by as the horrific events occur.
   Despite these problems, and despite a plot that's mired with inconsistencies, the film's story is so powerful that the whole proves nothing less than engrossing. Comparisons to today's society can't help but be made while watching "Rosewood"; although moviegoers might wish to leave the theatre thinking we are living in a better time, they might not be able to. This New Regency production is a rallying cry, calling attention to the unthinkable acts of which people are capable, and it should not be forgotten. Starring Jon Voight, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Esther Rolle and Michael Rooker. Directed by John Singleton. Written by Gregory Poirier. Produced by Jon Peters. A Warner release. Drama. Rated R for violence and some sexuality. Running time: 140 min
Tags: Starring Jon Voight, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Esther Rolle and Michael Rooker, Directed by John Singleton, Written by Gregory Poirier, Produced by Jon Peters, Warner, Drama
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