Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The Burial: Movie Review

Taking down greed and racism in an entertaining crowd-pleaser.
The biggest crowd-pleaser you’ll find this year. A highly entertaining court room drama about good guys vs bad guys. There might be a few minor misdirections on which one is which, but it’s all due to how they play the race card. A story which is seemingly not about race at all turns out to be very racially motivated thanks to a smart observant young lawyer.   2023

Directed by: Maggie Betts

Screenplay by: Doug Wright, Maggie Betts, Jonathan Harr

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Tommy Lee Jones, Mamoudou Athie

Jeremiah O’Keefe (Tommy Lee Jones) is a rich, old White man. It’s fair if your first thought is that he’ll be the villain. After all, he’s very wealthy, owns multiple businesses, has a zoo-full of kids and grandkids, is presumably conservative and lives in a massive house in central Mississippi, one of the poorest areas of the country. He’s upset because parts of his business are failing and he may need to sell them off. He turns out to be a soft-spoken respectful man who will earn your sympathy.

On the flip side, Willie Gary (Jamie Foxx) is a loud, fast-talking pastor who flashes his fancy watch and then becomes a very wealthy personal injury lawyer who boasts about his private jets, plural, multiple private jets. While he is consistently shown to be a man who will fight on the right side of causes, there should be no doubt that he’s an egotistical money-hungry lawyer. I just read an article about former clients he screwed over and they’re very upset about this movie, but if you’re paying attention the unscrupulous Willie Gary they’re describing is in this movie. He’s a multi-faceted man with some good intentions and a whole lot of flaws primarily stemming from his love of money. He is also very, very entertaining. He has the perfect traits for a crowd-pleasing movie like this one: you can laugh at him, root for him, and just hope he’s busy fighting against some big corporation and is not your lawyer.

The pivotal character of this movie, its heart and soul, is Mamadou Athie as Hal Dockins. A whip smart, young Black lawyer who O’Keefe has hired because he thinks he has good ideas. Indeed he does. Every turn in this story is courtesy of Dockins having another good idea. Like Jeremiah O’Keefe he’s a very soft-spoken, mild-mannered individual who is underestimated every step of the way but he has a quiet confidence and he speaks up when he knows he’s right. Hopefully Athie can turn this into a career-making moment for himself.

There are a ton of entertaining characters, which will take you quite far in a movie like this, however the actual court case about O’Keefe, the owner of family-run funeral homes, suing a billionaire businessman trying to run a conglomerate of funeral homes for reneging on a contract – is interesting, especially when Hal Dockins recognizes the underlying racial motivations and turns this movie into a rich vs the Black and poor.

The Burial is not an overly complex movie. But it takes a famous court case, breaks it down into the familial driving elements of greed and racism, and then just makes it entertaining. If you need a movie for your whole family, you can’t go wrong with this one.

One of the Best of 2023