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The story takes place in alternative America where the blacks are members of social elite, and whites are inhabitants of inner city ghettos. Louis Pinnock is a white worker in a chocolate factory, loving husband and father of two children. While delivering a package for black CEO Thaddeus Thomas, he is mistaken for a voyeur and, as a result, loses his job, gets beaten by black cops and his family gets evicted from their home. Desperate Pinnock takes a gun and kidnaps Thomas, demanding justice. Written by
Dragan Antulov <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Desmond Nakano, who is Japanese-American, created the film in part because of how we felt that to both American whites and blacks, he was "them". He also tapped into the disorienting feeling he felt when he visited Japan, saying that "for so long I had been different, it felt wrong to be the same." See more »
[Last lines. Mrs. Pinnock has just refused to accept from Mr. Thomas the money he owed her husband]
Why don't you keep it? I can give you some more if you think... if you think it's not enough.
How much is enough, Mr. Thomas? How much will ever be enough?
[turns, shuts the door and walks away]
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"White Man's Burden" has a (reasonably) neat premise: society is reversed so the black man is in the white man's current place. The idea is this allows us to tackle our prejudices and preconceived notions about society. Does it work? No, it's too busy being laughable or boring.
From the opening I felt chills. Was this chocolate factory scene, brown being poured on top of white, some horribly clumsy use of imagery? I feared so. The film looked set to be heavy-handed, and it was. The movie's flaw is that it over-does it's premise - nearly all the white people are poor and rundown, while all the black people come across as elitist snobs. The underlying message of course being that in "our reality" the situation is reversed and this gives a horribly, simplistic, and downright irritating attitude towards race. It's completely simplistic and infuriating - not because you're angered that it's right but because it's done so poorly and with a preachiness that grates.
It might all be OK if there was a story to support it. There isn't. Reeking of TV movie-of-the-week, John Travolta is playing a desperate factory-worker who kidnaps his ex-boss in a bid to get the money he lost from being fired unfairly. *Yawn*. There's no suspense and no tension in their scenes. There's the boring, trite situation where the boss, played by Harry Belafonte, starts to understand Travolta's cause. Far too obvious in coming. There's even the hilariously poor moment when Belafonte's son takes home a white girl to a look of distaste from his mother - bang that message-hammer on our heads Mr Nakano (the script writer). I'm reminded of a moment from "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood" when the character is similarly preachy and the postman turns to the screen and says "Message!" pointing out how morale messages are weakly delivered. In fact the only decent bit is about two minutes from the end, and even that's ruined by the (incredibly) obvious follow-up final minute. *Yawn*.
Travolta does nothing for this picture. This film was released after his sudden re-emerge in "Pulp Fiction", but I imagine he made it while still wandering around the Turkey Farm. His performance is as forgettable, as is usual with him and Belafonte is just OK.
Nothing can make me recommend this piece. If you want a movie about race issues why not watch the infinitely superior "American History X". This movie has a dreadful plot, weak acting, and destroys a promising premise by being both heavy-handed and insultingly simplistic. Avoid. 2/10.
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