Stars: Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 128 minutes
Under the slick, professional direction of Alan Parker, Mississippi Burning is the kind of film that will either draw you into its emotionally volatile sphere of influence or outrage you with its repugnant, manipulative revision of American civil rights history. The fact-based story brings two highly different FBI agents (Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe) to Mississippi to investigate the murders of three young black men who had been promoting black voter registration. The key to solving the murders is the testimony of a local deputy's wife (Frances McDormand) who is struggling to break free of her husband's racist influence. As critic Pauline Kael argued, "...the movie hinges on the ploy that the FBI men can't stop the Ku Klux Klan from its terrorism against blacks until they swing over to vigilante tactics. And we're put in the position of applauding the FBI's dirtiest forms of intimidation. This cheap gimmick undercuts the whole civil rights subject; it validates the terrorist methods of the Klan." Or you can take the view of Roger Ebert, who named Mississippi Burning "the best film of 1988"; it would earn seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Actor (Hackman), Supporting Actress (McDormand), and Director. Which reaction is most appropriate? Both are, depending on your particular point of view. At the very least the performances are dynamic, but there's more to this provocative film than fine acting. We suggest you check it out and form your own opinion. --Jeff Shannon
In the courts of Mississippi, they have been reminded, that they cannot, by force, turn our communities into replicas of their communities... communities in which negroes run riot, unrestrained and unpunished, as they do this summer in the streets of Harlem, or they do in the streets of Oakland, or they do in the STREETS OF CHICAGO!
It's not good for you to be here.
It's ugly. This whole thing is so ugly. Have you any idea what it's like to live with all this? People look at us and only see bigots and racists. Hatred isn't something you're born with. It gets taught. At school, they said segregation what's said in the bible... Genesis 9, Verse 27. At 7 years of age, you get told it enough times, you believe it. You believe the hatred. You live it... you breathe it. You marry it.
Fact is, we got two cultures down here: a white culture, and a colored culture. Now, that's the way it always has been, and that's the way it always will be.
Rest of America don't see it that way, Mr. Mayor.
Sheriff Ray Stuckey:
Rest of America don't mean jack shit. You in Mississippi now.
I love Mississippi.
THEY! They hate Mississippi! They hate us because we represent a shining example of successful segregation. These Northern students, with their Communist, atheist bosses, and their wish to destroy us this week, has taken a terrible blow. This week, their cause has been crippled. This week, these federal policeman you see around here prying into our lives, violating out civil liberties have learned that they are powerless against us if every single Anglo-Saxon Christian one of us stands together!
You. I'm gonna tell you a story. A kid named Homer Wilkes lives 30 miles north of here. He'd just taken his girlfriend home and was walking along the road. A truck pulls up beside him. Four white boys took him for a ride. Now Homer, he headn't done anything, except be a Negro. They took him to a shack, a regular old shack like this one. Then they took out a razor blade.
Ragged old razor blade, like this one. They pulled down his pants, they spread his legs, and they sliced off his scrotum.
Then they put it in a coffee cup, like this one. Mayor, do you know how much you bleed when someone cuts off your balls?
HUH! When they found Homer, he looked like he head been dipped in blood up to his waist. He was barely alive when they got him to the hospital, and he can barely walk now.
They want me to say, "Let us not forget that two white boys also died helping negros help themselves." They want me to say, "We mourn with the mothers of these two white boys." But the state of Mississippi won't even allow these white boys to be buried in the same cemetary as this
negro boy. I say, "I have no more love to give! I have only anger in my heart today, and I want you to be angry with me! That I am sick and I am tired, and I want you to be sick and tired with me! I-I-I am sick and tired of going to the funerals of black men who have been murdered by white men! And I-I am sick and tired of the people of this counrty who continue to allow these things to happen!" What is an unalienable right if you are a negro? What does it mean, Equal Treatment under the law? What-what does it mean, Liberty and justice for all? Now I say to these people, "Look at the face of this young man, and you will see the face of a black man. But if you look at the blood shed, it is red! It is like yours! It is JUST... LIKE... YOURS!"