[Screen It]


(1997) (Jon Voight, Ving Rhames) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate Moderate Extreme Moderate Heavy
Moderate None Mild None Moderate
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Moderate Mild Moderate Moderate Extreme

Drama: In 1923, a white mob, angered by a lie about a black man attacking a white woman, attacks the black town of Rosewood, Florida.
It's 1923 Florida and while racial tensions still exist sixty years after the civil war, the black town of Rosewood and its white sister town of Sumner peacefully coexist. White shopkeeper John Wright (JON VOIGHT) has made a living serving the black clientele in Rosewood, including Sylvester Carrier (DON CHEADLE), his mother Sarah (ESTHER ROLLE), and young school teacher, Scrappie (ELISE NEAL). When a wealthy, but mysterious horse riding stranger, Mann (VING RHAMES), arrives in town, his appearance unfortunately coincides with the news of a convict on the loose. A young wife, Fannie Taylor (CATHERINE KELLNER), who's involved in an abusive adulterous affair, takes advantage of this situation and blames her beatings on an anonymous black man. Soon the white men of Sumner, including Duke (BRUCE MCGILL), form into a lynching mob, and it's all Sheriff Ellis Walker (MICHAEL ROOKER) can do to stop them. As the mob mentality increases, Mann helps the citizens of Rosewood as their town is attacked.
If they're fans of any of the cast, they might, but this is quite severe stuff for all but the most mature of teenagers.
For violence and some sexuality.
  • JON VOIGHT plays a businessman who at times stands up for his black clientele, but at others goes along with the crowd to save his own hide.
  • VING RHAMES plays a drifter and WWI veteran who, when looking for place to settle down, finds himself in the middle of a bad situation.
  • DON CHEADLE plays a homeowner and family man who won't back down from the threats and racial hatred of the white mob.


    OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
    This is an impressive piece of film making by director John Singleton ("Boyz N the Hood," "Poetic Justice"). Drawing on the true life incidents of the 1923 Rosewood massacre, Singleton deftly sets up the community and its characters before allowing the hammer, so to speak, to fall. Usually topics like this are unpleasant and uncomfortable to sit through, but there's enough humor and unique characters to offset -- at least for the first half -- the tragedy and horror that follows. Rhames does a fine job in this, his first leading role. One worries when first seeing Rhames -- the large, brooding silent type on horseback -- that he'll be just a variation of the characters Clint Eastwood popularized in his spaghetti westerns and later movies. But Rhames adds a dimension to his character that allows him to move beyond that stereotype. Not that he doesn't kick some butt in the process, but it's nice to see a bit more of a three-dimensional person in that all too familiar role. The rest of the cast is superb, including performances by Cheadle and especially Neal. While we find it hard to recommend movies that aren't pleasant to sit through, this is one of those films that rises above the ugly incidents contained within. We give it a big 8 out of 10.
    For kids who are mature enough to handle the subject matter and often graphic and brutal scenes, this might be an okay film for them to see. Younger kids, however, should be kept away from this one. Beyond the racism and violence that's directly related to that, there are two sex scenes that show graphic movement, but not a great deal of nudity. Alcohol is consumed and is noted for partially being responsible for the mob's behavior. The second half of the film is filled with tense scenes as the hate filled mob hunts down the town's survivors and many dead people are seen, with quite a few of them hanged and one burned. We strongly suggest that you read through the scene listings if you or your children wish to see this film.

  • John goes out to drink with his buddies and the next morning is seen drinking a hangover remedy.
  • Mann drinks moonshine from a jar as do a few other people on New Years Eve.
  • Fannie drinks after having sex with the man who then beats her.
  • Alcohol is noted for fueling the violent racist behavior and many of the mob members drink in several scenes.
  • Fannie has many dark bruises on her back and newer ones on her face after a recent beating.
  • A young black man's mouth is very bloody after being beaten by the mob. Later, a very bloody sheet covers his dead body.
  • Aunt Sara is bloody after being shot, as is another man.
  • Many hanged and bloody people are seen, as is the charred corpse of a lynching victim.
  • Many bodies of adults and children are seen in a mass grave.
  • Obviously all of the mob members with their racist attitudes and actions have plenty of both.
  • Black people are often called "niggers" or "boy."
  • Duke slaps his son on the head, telling he doesn't want his son "hanging around with a nigger." Later he tries to teach his son how to tie a noose and makes him look at the bodies of those he and his friends have killed.
  • John leaves his newly married wife at home on New Year's Eve while he goes out to drink with his friends.
  • Fannie lies about who beat her and states that it was a black man. In doing so, she sets into motion a horrendous chain of events.
  • Both Ellis and John at times have some of both as they allow many of the events to occur. While they do so to save their own hides and at other times do actually try to help those being attacked and hunted, they still come across as having bad attitudes during those times.
  • Nearly all of the second half of the film is tense as the white mob hunts down any black people they can find. There are many scenes where the women and children hide in or are chased through the Florida swamps.
  • The attacks on Sylvester's home and other mob encounters are rather tense as well.
  • Pistols/Rifles: Used to threaten, injure, or kill many people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Knife: Used to cut off the ear of a still alive man who's just been hanged.
  • Racism, racial slurs and accompanying violent behavior.
  • Phrases: "Nigger" and "Boy" for black people, "Bastard," and "Shut up."
  • None.
  • There is a mild amount of suspenseful music that occurs mainly in the second half of the film.
  • None.
  • 2 "s" words, 1 slang term using male genitals ("p*ckerwood"), 2 "ass" words, 23 damns, 10 hells, 5 S.O.B.'s, and 9 uses of "God damn," 2 uses of "For God's sake," and 1 use each of "For Christ's sake," "Jesus," "Jesus Christ," "God," and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • John has sex with his young employee. His bare butt is seen as is rather graphic sexual movement.
  • Fannie's husband, James, playfully chases her around the house wanting to have sex and tells her that he's "got a surprise" for her. When she finally gets him to stop, he's heard zipping up his pants.
  • A man has sex with Fannie from behind, but all we see is her intense facial expressions and hear her moaning until he's done.
  • Sylvester smokes cigars in several scenes and in one Mann gives him several more.
  • John and a few other men smoke at a property auction.
  • Mob members smoke in several scenes.
  • Sylvester, his family and others must deal with their families being separated during the attacks and with the deaths that occur.
  • John's kids don't think of their stepmother as "mom" and this upsets her. She and John then talk about his former wife having just died some seven months earlier.
  • Racism and the KKK (that shows up later in the film).
  • Mob mentality that leads to events such as those that occurred in this film.
  • The historical accuracy of the film.
  • Duke shoots and kills a wild boar.
  • Duke slaps his son on the head for being friends with a black boy. Later he smacks him for crying over seeing kids (and adults) in a mass grave.
  • Sylvester indirectly, and cautiously, threatens some white men who were harassing Scrappie.
  • Fannie's adulterous lover hits and knocks her across the room. He then repeatedly kicks her while she's on the floor. Severe bruises on her back indicate that she's been abused before.
  • The white mob has a young black man whom they've already beaten. We then see them kick him several times. Later he's shot with a shotgun and then, still alive, hanged. Later we're told that his ears, fingers, and other body parts were cut off.
  • One of the white mob members recounts how another black man's head was cut off while he was held on a railroad track.
  • A man shoots and kills Sylvester's dog.
  • The white mob surrounds Sylvester's house. Aunt Sara is shot as are two white men. The mob opens fire on the house and then burns it to the ground.
  • Men shoot at Mann and then chase him into the woods and he then returns gunfire at them.
  • Many hanged men are seen, and one of them, who's still alive, has his ear cut off. Another charred corpse is seen that was also lynched.
  • The mob essentially burns down the whole town of Rosewood.
  • A dead preacher is seen on the floor of his church that moments later is torched.
  • An older man is made to begin digging the grave for his dead mother. He's then kicked a few times and then is shot, execution style, in the head.
  • Mann is hanged, and his body shudders and he gasps for air (but does make it out okay).
  • Fannie's husband, James, and the sheriff get into a fight.
  • Many people are shot and killed in the climactic chase scene.
  • We hear the sounds of James Taylor beating his wife for lying and causing all of the mayhem.
  • It is reported that between 40 and 150 people were killed in Rosewood during this time.

  • Reviewed February 19, 1997

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