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Jim Natter, the leader of a violent Kuk Klux Klan lodge, is shot dead. His teenage son Eric Natter is found nearby, and taken into police custody for his protection pending the investigation. While four cops drive him to a safe-house, they are ambushed. Three of them shot dead, including Deputy Lawrence, and his black partner Jerry Robinson is accused of the murders. Written by
Courtney Vance, a black cop in KKK country, goes on the run with a white power boy in tow
"Ambushed" (1998) is a different kind of neo-noir, with a very good story built around racism. It's an action movie too. This was not a big studio production. It was HBO co-produced. Filmed in North Carolina, it has good local color, and an appropriate music score with some prominent guitar work.
Courtney B. Vance is the main character. He's the sole black detective in a sheriff's department in KKK country. This means he has to put up with jibes from white trash like David Keith's character. The department is infiltrated with several white supremacist types. The straight arrow sheriff, Charles Hallahan, doesn't know this. Virginia Madsen is in the department and she's sympathetic to Vance, who has lost his wife and son. In fact, she signals her affection for him in a very nicely played subtle scene near the beginning. Later, she becomes his ally when he needs help, and what transpires in the earlier scene becomes critical for later on.
A local KKK/white power/white supremacist leader is slain by a rival, his brother-in-law (Robert Patrick). This is a false flag killing designed to gain white sympathy for the white supremacy movement. A KKK witness is planted who says he saw two black men do it. They are identified as black militants, and they are found dead in a concocted murder-suicide.
Vance and partner William Forsythe go on the case. They spot the 12-year old son (Jeremy Lelliott) of the man assassinated and take him into custody. He's a thorough racist, with plenty of insults for Vance. The conflicts are handled very nicely in this movie. Jeremy is hard to handle, but he's only a boy, still malleable and still unsure of what's really what. He's not a hardened street kind of kid.
As they transport him to a safe place to get his testimony, they are ambushed by the KKK'ers. Forsythe is killed and a dying Keith says that Vance killed Forsythe and shot him. The boy knows the truth but fears for the lives of his mother and sister, now that he's seen his father killed and the murderous ambush. He escapes with Vance, who covered the boy and prevented his getting killed.
Vance seeks helps from Madsen and from a buddy, Bill Nunn, whom we have just seen play a detective in "The Last Seduction".
The rest of the movie is action-packed with lots of machine gun and pistol fire. It maintains momentum, logic and tension. It has time for the relationships of Vance with both Madsen and the young boy, and it has time to explore the character and doctrine of Robert Patrick, who has taken over.
This is a good little movie and entertaining.
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