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February 20, 2010

Blood Done Sign My Name

Blood-done-sign-my-name-2010_poster If you can get past its moribund title, you'll still have a challenge in spotting the protagonist in this oddly washed-out depiction of a racial battle that raged in Oxford, North Carolina after the vicious 1970 murder of recently returned war vet Henry "Dickie" Marrow. '70s era television production values and ineffectual performances plague the fact-based story that traces the activist response of a community of blacks who marched in protest only to have a day in court that confirmed their worst fears about a fixed judicial system. Writer/director Jeb Stuart (screenwriter on "Die Hard" - 1988) barely gets his hands dirty with his adaptation of Timothy B. Tyson's book of the same limited-appeal title. Ben Chavis is charismatic as Nate Parker, a school teacher and restaurant owner who returns to the tobacco industry town. Nate vies for leading man duties against Methodist minister Vernon Tyson (Ricky Schroder) who is intent on delivering civil rights to the area via his white congregation's pulpit. The stereotypes are soft-peddled except for N.A.A.C.P. "stoker man" (Afemo Omilami) who stands out as a unapologetically cynical huckster for the oppressed whose showy efforts instigate an act of arson against the subjugation of the ever-present "man." This kind of lightweight activist filmmaking is an insult to all sides of the race issue because it feigns passion and outrage. I'd be shocked if Jeb Stuart ever saw "The Spook Who Sat By the Door" or "The Battle of Algiers."

Rated PG-13. 128 mins. (C-) (Two Stars)

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