A dramatization of a 1923 horrific racist lynch mob attack on an African American community.
Translating the dignified fury that characterised his astounding debut, Boyz N The Hood, into a 1920s setting, director John Singleton reconstructs the shocking and, until recently, largely suppressed episode that saw a redneck mob virtually destroy a Florida village and massacre the majority of its African-American population, purely out of racial hatred.
What makes this shameful incident all the more appalling is that the slaughter was prompted by the lie of a white woman who sought to cover up a violent row with her illicit lover by claiming she had been raped by a black man. This is a noble attempt to depict the events and attitudes of an unenlightened time.
Rosewood itself has been faithfully replicated, while the leisurely pace of rural life is admirably captured in the opening scenes. But too many details ring hollow and while these don't in any way lessen the impact of the drama, they do undermine its authenticity. Rhames' haughty Civil War hero is a total fabrication that (like much of the looting and the last-minute train rescue sequences) smacks of Saturday matinee Westerns. Similarly, the repentance of Voight's shopkeeper seems to be a sop to keep white liberal audiences on its side.
Harrowing this may be, but the concessions to commercialism rob it of much of its genuine power.