In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb concrete poster

Dragged Across Concrete

It’s difficult to ignore the craftsmanship and performances in Dragged Across Concrete simply because you don’t like some of its darker themes or feel like…

Thumb sunset poster

Sunset

Nemes' suggestive, impressionistic approach takes some getting used to, but Sunset is worth the extra effort.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Deadline

Deadline Movie Review
  |  

In the opening scene of Curt Hahn's "Deadline," a young black couple profess their love on the front steps of an Alabama church. Then before he leaves, he turns lovingly to wave goodbye and is shot dead. The murder is never investigated. Nineteen years pass. We meet two reporters for a Nashville daily, who decide to reopen the case, even though their publisher bellows at them that the paper has no subscribers or advertisers in Alabama, and isn't about to assign two reporters to a cold and ancient case. (As indeed many a publisher would bellow.)

Advertisement

We meet the drawling newsroom veteran Ronnie Bullock (Eric Roberts) and the earnest younger reporter Matt Harper (Steve Talley), who are pointed to the case by a blond hottie named Trey (Lauren Jenkins). She was raised by a beloved black nanny named Mary Pell Sampson (Jackie Welch). The dead young man was her son.

So dedicated is Matt that he gets wrapped up in the story and commits that transgression for which no man can be forgiven: He forgets the cake-tasting session that he and his bride-to-be have set with their wedding planner. He and Ronnie speed off to the fictitious hamlet of Ames, Ala., where they meet the indifferent police chief, a judge who was a Klan member and a concerned black preacher. The wooden cross above the preacher's altar was fashioned from a lynching tree. His congregation likes the symbolism, but he is decidedly unenthusiastic about it.

This story is based on a 2006 novel by Mark Ethridge, who wrote the script and also won two Pulitzers for the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. He must be a gifted reporter, but as a storyteller, he lacks a persuasive touch. The situation seems appropriate material for a John Grisham thriller, but his version benefits way too much from happy chance. The reporters are basically able to solve the old murder (and a recent one targeting the police chief) by being extremely lucky in their sources. How much brilliant reporting do you need to do if you find eyewitnesses willing to swear under oath that they saw the murderer commit his premeditated crime?

Ethridge stretches his story with perfunctory subplots about the offended fiancee, the bullheaded publisher, the reporter's dying father and an assortment of colorful local characters. Any casting director would be ecstatic to discover Clay Brocker, as an Ames redneck whose tightly braided sideburns reach all the way to his waist.

The plot, in short, is underwhelming. It merely follows the reporters as the screenplay serves them the solution to their case on a silver platter. Yet curiously, "Deadline" flows right along, and peeking at my watch I was startled by how quickly the time was passing. (In contrast, watching "Wrath of the Titans," I felt the minutes tick by as if measured by an hourglass filled with molasses.) Maybe that's because the plot is so easy to follow, and the actors are mostly fresh locals. Of the pros, I enjoyed seeing Eric Roberts again. Remember when Mickey Rourke went on that rant at the Independent Spirit Awards about how his buddy Eric is shamefully underused by Hollywood? Maybe so. He used to play hyperactive weirdos, and here his reporter is smooth, calm and confident, even if he does usually carry three guns.

Advertisement

Popular Blog Posts

The Most Unforgettable Episodes of The Twilight Zone

Jessica Ritchey on the episodes of The Twilight Zone that she thinks about the most.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Netflix's The Umbrella Academy a Not-So-Super Fusion of X-Men and Watchmen

A review of Netflix's new superhero series, The Umbrella Academy.

A Reappraisal of Oliver Stone's "Alexander: The Ultimate Cut"

On the eve of its 10th anniversary, a new version of Oliver Stone's Alexander on Blu-ray demands a reappraisal.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus