When you see that a movie has Forrest Whitaker (“Rogue One”, “Southpaw”), Garrett Hedlund (“Triple Frontier”, “Unbroken”), Andrea Riseborough (“The Death Of Stalin”, “Mindhorn”), Tom Wilkinson (“Dead In A Week: Or Your Money Back”, “Denial”) and one-time singer Usher in, you expect it to be front and centre at your local theatre, right?
So, I was surprised to find Burden, written and directed by Andrew Heckler (in his first writing and directing pass), was made in 2018 and is only now seeing the light of day.
The movie is based on the true story of the KKK museum that opened in South Carolina in the late nineties. Mostly unwelcome, the local reverend Kennedy (Whitaker), campaigned for it to be closed.
It transpires that no crime was being broken, and anyway, members of the police were uncomfortably close with the members of the Klan so it probably wouldn’t have mattered.
What changes fortunes for Kennedy is Mike Burden (Hedlund). Burden is under the wing of local Klan leader Tom Griffin (Wilkinson), who is basically his father. When Mike falls for local girl Judy (Riseborough), he begins to see things differently.
Judy has a young son who is friends with a kid whose father is Clarence Brooks (Usher), whom Mike used to go to school with, but now won’t hang around with, because of the colour of his skin. Judy doesn’t have that problem though, and certainly does like Tom’s attitude.
Slowly, very slowly, Mike begins to come around, seeing the issue with the museum, seeing the issue with his attitude to those who aren’t white. The fortune I mentioned is that Tom, seeing Mike as a son, puts the shop deed in his name, which Mike then sells to the good reverend Kennedy to fund his first home with Judy and her son.
That’s the story, we see snippets of the real Mike and reverend Kennedy at the end of the movie and you can read about the story online. So, we have a great story, a great cast, and a movie that couldn’t be more relevant, so what’s the problem?
It’s not with the performances, Wilkinson is menacing, but quietly so. He gives off an air of danger which Heckler captures brilliantly; at the start of the film you feel on edge that something nasty is about to happen.
Hedlund seems to mimic the real Burden to perfection, it reminded me of watching The Fighter and Christian Bale, and then seeing the real Dicky Eklund and realising how perfect the performance was that you’d just seen. Hedlund isn’t quite up to Bale’s performance, but it is good.
Riseborough, who is from a part of the UK that traditionally has quite a strong accent, excels, watch her in Oblivion alongside Tom Cruise and then in this, a stunning transformation.
So, what’s the issue? Quite simply it’s one of time, or the excess of it. The movie is so slow it’s painful. Even if you don’t know the story, you will, early, and when you’re ahead of a film it makes an already slow film, even slower.
Cut down, tightened up, Burden could have been a great film. As it is, it is slow, really slow. It makes it hard to get onboard with any of the characters, with the issues at hand and that’s a shame, a crying shame.
Signature Entertainment presents Burden on DVD & Digital HD from July 6th