Ghosts of Mississippi [1996]

Rob Reiner, who used to be more interested in personal style as a filmmaker, continues to duck behind bland movies about important ideas with this based-on-fact film about the embattled white prosecutor (Alec Baldwin) who brought racist killer Byron De La Beckwith (James Woods) to justice after 30 years of failed attempts. Charged with the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, Beckwith slimes up the film pretty well via Woods's somewhat showy performance, while Baldwin generously assumes the usual clich├ęs surrounding reluctant heroes. Whoopi Goldberg is at her most stately as Evers's widow. The whole self-important production is dogged by the obvious thought that it might have played better (and to far more people than it did in theaters) on television. --Tom Keogh

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