Saturday 24 February 2024

Movie Review: The Burial (2023)

Genre: Courtroom Drama  
Director: Maggie Betts  
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Tommy Lee Jones, Jurnee Smollett, Bill Camp, Alan Ruck, Pamela Reed  
Running Time: 126 minutes  

Synopsis: In Mississippi, Jeremiah "Jerry" O'Keefe (Tommy Lee Jones) runs a family-owned funeral home business, while in Florida, Willie E. Gray (Jamie Foxx) is a celebrated personal injury lawyer. To raise much needed cash, Jerry offers to sell part of his business to Vancouver-based Raymond Loewen (Bill Camp), who owns an expanding funeral home empire. The contract takes too long to close, and Jerry sues Loewen for reneging on the deal. He hires Willie to lead the case, while Loewen turns to Mame Downes (Jurnee Smollett) to mount a defence.

What Works Well: The story of a decent family man taking on a greedy corporate behemoth carries all the attributes of typical feel-good underdog dramas. Through scenes with family members and discussions of personal histories, director Maggie Betts invests the time to round Jerry and Willie into worthwhile characters. Stars Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones have equal opportunities to shine, and bring the necessary depth to their roles as well as credibility to the unlikely friendship that evolves between the two men. 

What Does Not Work As Well: Once Willie accepts the case and aims for big money, it's never quite clear why or how a simple contract dispute was ever allowed to spiral into a gong show. The courtroom scenes suffer as a result, defaulting to simplistic and one-sided good-versus-evil representations. The unwieldy commentary about racism and slavery hits a sudden wall with the truncation of closing arguments, leaving the lingering echo of a rush to cheerleading at the expense of thoughtfulness.

Conclusion: Celebrates an uphill battle by the little guy, but not deft enough to avoid dubious intentions.

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