7.9/10
6,396
53 user 24 critic

Matewan (1987)

A labor union organizer comes to an embattled mining community brutally and violently dominated and harassed by the mining company.

Director:

John Sayles

Writer:

John Sayles
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Chris Cooper ... Joe Kenehan
Mary McDonnell ... Elma Radnor
Will Oldham ... Danny Radnor
David Strathairn ... Sid Hatfield
Ken Jenkins ... Sephus Purcell
Kevin Tighe ... Hickey
Gordon Clapp ... Tom Griggs
Bob Gunton ... C.E. Lively
Jace Alexander ... Hillard Elkins
Joe Grifasi ... Fausto
Nancy Mette ... Bridey Mae
Jo Henderson Jo Henderson ... Mrs. Elkins
Josh Mostel ... Cabell Testerman
Gary McCleery Gary McCleery ... Ludie
Maggie Renzi Maggie Renzi ... Rosaria
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Storyline

Mingo County, West Virginia, 1920. Coal miners, struggling to form a union, are up against company operators and the gun thugs of the notorious Baldwin-Felts detective agency. Black and Italian miners, brought in by the company to break the strike, are caught between the two forces. UMWA organizer and dual-card Wobbly Joe Kenehan determines to bring the local, Black, and Italian groups together. While Kenehan and his story are fictional, the setting and the dramatic climax are historical; Sid Hatfield, Cabell C. Testerman, C. E. Lively and the Felts brothers were real-life participants, and 'Few Clothes' is based on a character active several years previously. Written by Susan C. Mitchell <susanm@indirect.com>, expanded by Silverwhistle

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

At the coal company they use you until you wear out See more »

Genres:

Drama | History

Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Italian

Release Date:

30 June 1988 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

Azok a véres napok See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$1,680,358
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sid Hatfield and Mayor Testerman are buried next to each other in a small cemetery just outside of Matewan, in Buskirk, KY. See more »

Goofs

In the scene where the coal company executives are trying to bribe the Mayor and Sid Hatfield, the calendar behind the mayor reads September 1920. The historical shootout at the climax occurred in May of 1920, four months beforehand. See more »

Quotes

Sephus Purcell: [Opening lines of film]
[Coughing]
Sephus Purcell: Damn! Shootin' coal! Shootin' coal!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in While We're Young (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

GATHERING STORM
Music and lyrics by Mason Daring
(c) 1987 Daring Music/ASCAP
Sung by Hazel Dickens
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A stark depiction of a dark chapter in history
15 April 2006 | by KnuckleSee all my reviews

Matewan tells the tale of just one of the battles fought in the coal mining wars of the late nineteenth, early twentieth century.

Chris Cooper, as Joe Menehan, plays a union organizer intent upon bringing the miners of Matewan out from underneath the heel of the coal mine owners. When intimidation and terror tactics fail to cow the locals, the mine operators and their private security thugs bring in scabs, nominally led by "Few Clothes" Johnson - played by James Earl Jones. When the scabs join the strikers the mine operators resort to all-out warfare against the unionized miners.

David Strathairn, Chris Cooper, James Earl Jones, Mary McDonnell - everyone on the cast delivers a believable, wonderful performance. Everything in this movie makes you feel as if you were really there and depicts this often overlooked event in American history with a stark realism that will leave you thinking about it over and over for a very long time.

Such is the impact of the direction, acting, and writing of this movie that when I saw this movie on video about a week ago, it was still as fresh in my mind as when I saw it last on the big screen on opening day.

10 out of 10. Truly an overlooked classic.


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