American Violet (2009)
My Rating: 4/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Terrific and a rewarding experience!”
Based on the real-life events surrounding a military-style drug raid on the poor, predominantly black housing project of Arlington Springs, director Tim Disney’s AMERICAN VIOLET shines an… Based on the real-life events surrounding a military-style drug raid on the poor, predominantly black housing project of Arlington Springs, director Tim Disney’s AMERICAN VIOLET shines an unflinching spotlight on the shameful racial profiling practices of a corrupt district attorney in a rural Texas town. The raid, which occurs after a tip by a single informant (a former mental patient bullied by the police to name names), targets among others Dee, a single mother of four with no prior drug charges (excellently played by newcomer Nicole Beharie).
When the defendant assigned to her case tries to pressure her into a guilty plea in exchange for a 10-year suspended sentence, Dee refuses, rightly insisting that she has done no wrong. But with the vast majority of the prosecuted taking plea deals, even Dee’s mother (Alfre Woodard) thinks she’s a fool. Dee’s heroic defiance soon wins acolytes in ACLU lawyer David Cohen (Tim Blake Nelson) and his assistant, Byron Hill (Malcolm Barrett). The Yankee lawyers team up with local consul Sam Conroy (Will Patton), a gun-toting Texan battling his own past racist demons, building their case against Calvin Beckett (Michael O’Keefe), the villainous D.A. whose tough-on-crime tactics are a smokescreen for his blatantly racially motivated tactics. Set against the backdrop of 2000’s Bush vs. Gore contest, AMERICAN VIOLET’s left-leaning polemic is clear; but the film’s core message of the fight against injustice rings loud, and is underscored by powerful performances from Beharie, Woodard, and O’Keefe–whose dramatic unraveling during Beckett’s deposition speech is, alone, worth the price of admission.