Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Tale of Justice Pits Devil, Angel Woods Superb as Medgar Evers' Killer

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Tale of Justice Pits Devil, Angel Woods Superb as Medgar Evers' Killer

Article excerpt

"GHOSTS OF MISSISSIPPI"

Rating: PG-13. Running time: 2:11.

WHENEVER "Ghosts of Mississippi" starts to crawl - and that happens a few times in this complex, message-laden story - James Woods appears as if he sprang fully formed from the brow of Satan, brimming with hateful energy. In this movie about justice long deferred, the devil not only has most of the good lines, he knows exactly how to chew them up and spit them in your face. Woods, a likely Oscar nominee, plays Byron De La Beckwith, a snake-eyed Mississippi racist who murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers in 1963. Twice in 1964, all-white juries failed to convict him - each ended in a hung jury - and he was set free. Twenty-five years later, after the indictment against De La Beckwith had been dismissed, a white prosecutor (Bobby DeLaughter, played by Alec Baldwin) re-opened the case and finally was able to convince Evers' understandably skeptical widow, Myrlie (Whoopi Goldberg), to work with him to finally put "Delay" Beckwith away. Among the pleasures of "Ghosts of Mississippi" is the rare chance to see Goldberg, who is such a fine actress, in a serious role. If her Myrlie Evers is, at times, a bit too saintly, blame that on the script, not Goldberg. Producer-director Rob Reiner and writer Lewis Colick obviously felt, with some reason, that they needed a dark angel to offset their white devil. "Ghosts of Mississippi" has been criticized in some quarters as just another story of white people doing right by black people, like "Mississippi Burning." There is that aspect - but Reiner takes plenty of time to make it clear how astonishingly, casually murderous white Mississippi was for many decades, how much sin Mississippi whites have to atone for, and how much racism remains in the Deep South. "Ghosts of Mississippi" is a much more honest movie than popular potboilers like "Mississippi Burning" and "A Time to Kill," which also had white heroes. …

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