The movie is a tightly constructed drama about Louis Pinnock (John Travolta), a reliable blue collar man who works in a factory owned by high-society elitist Thaddeus Thomas (Harry Belafonte). At home, Louis has to deal with a rough neighborhood, gang violence, and trying to provide for his wife (Kelly Lynch) and two kids.
Just when things are looking up for the Pinnocks, Louis is suddenly fired from his job, beaten by police after "fitting the description," and then evicted from his home. Desperate, he tries to get Thaddeus to hear his case for reinstatement. When he won't listen, Louis kidnaps him, and the story really starts to take off.
What follows is a compelling, thought-provoking study of racism and the frightening economic and societal realities it can create. Nakano's script is masterful at challenging every preconceived notion we have, and Oscar-deserving performances by Travolta and Belafonte really bring his words to life. The pair have an incredible chemistry on screen, as Travolta finally shakes his slick, pompous stereotyping for a much meatier part. The comic relief is very well-done, also, and the film never wallows into the hopeless despair that other "victim of circumstance" stories tend to do.
I was initially skeptical that White Man's Burden would be any good, but Nakano's unique vision proved me very wrong. While he stops a little short on pushing the film to its limit, it's still a nearly flawless example of how modern cinema ought to be done, unadulterated by Hollywood glitz and driving its message home with a hammer.
I continue to think about one of Thaddeus's biting remarks early in the film, where he implies that whites are genetically inferior and "beyond being helped." I also think about the four rowdy skinhead punks (who somehow managed to get passes) sitting behind me, ashamed that the message was lost on these cretins.
Run time: 89 mins
In Theaters: Friday 1st December 1995
Distributed by: HBO Video
Production compaines: A BandApart, HBO, Rysher Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 24%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 25
IMDB: 5.2 / 10
Director: Desmond Nakano
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Screenwriter: Desmond Nakano