The 1963 murder of Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, who was gunned down in his driveway and died in the arms of his screaming wife and children, was an infamously ugly blot on Mississippi justice for over 30 years. The known killer, racist Byron De La Beckwith, was apprehended by the FBI, but went free after white juries in two trials failed to convict him.
The ultimately remarkable aftermath of the Evers' tragedy is the first real life subject Reiner has tackled. Sadly, in attempting to treat it with due gravity and dignity, a cautious Reiner falls dramatically very flat. It's his least cinematic film to date.
Alec Baldwin, earnest, but not quite fathomable, plays Bobby DeLaughter, the assistant district attorney who re-opened the case in 1989. Portrayed as a New South guilty liberal, DeLaughter defies Old South family, heritage, intimidation and indifference in his five year quest for judicial and personal atonement. Goldberg, subdued and actually seldom on screen, plays Evers' widow Myrlie, understandably sceptical her campaign for justice will ever end.
A solid supporting cast includes Virginia Madsen, William H. Macy and Diane Ladd, but unsurprisingly it is James Woods, latexed into old age and Oscar-nominated for his impersonation of Foghorn Leghorn, who grabs attention as De La Beckwith, the cocky, stereotypical "good ol' boy" bigot who simply can't believe he'll ever face the music when he is finally brought to trial again in 1994.
Re-titled from the original Ghosts Of Mississippi, this can still only wish it were in any danger of being confused with Mississippi Burning, so lacking is it in emotional power or suspense. It's a shame, but at no time does this ever come across as anything more than a well-meaning but uninspired and, at times, wincingly- cliched TV movie.