Theatrical Review: BLOOD DONE SIGN MY NAME
Writer: Jeb Stuart (screenplay), Tim Tyson (novel)
Director: Jeb Stuart
Cast: Rick Schroder, Nate Parker, Michael Rooker
Writer-director Jeb Stuart’s BLOOD DONE SIGN MY NAME is based on the novel of the same name by Tim Tyson, a professor of African-American studies, who lived in the town where the film’s events took place as a child. Tyson and his family are portrayed in the film, but this turns to be a major problem of the film, as their inclusion does not feel necessary-- at least with how the film uses them. The Tysons as characters in the film come off as story fat that could of easily been cut off in favor of making a tighter, more properly focused film about the important true story at the center of the film, and the people more directly affected by and involved in the events.
BLOOD DONE is set in 1970 and for the first 40 minutes of the film, it prominently features the Tyson family. Tim’s father, Vernon (Rick Schroder), has moved the family to Oxford, North Carolina, where he is set to be the new minister of the local church. Vernon is a decent man, and wants to preach about and hopefully create equality in the town. However, he is met with a lot of resistance and angers many of the town’s citizens when he invites an African-American with a decorated background to speak to his congregation. Going from the first third of the film, you would think the point of BLOOD DONE would be Vernon’s struggle to convey the importance of racial acceptance to his flock. Nope, the real plot of the film is finally revealed when African-American Vietnam Veteran Henry Marrow is beaten and murdered by a racist shop owner and his two sons, which sparks an important uprising.
The long set-up featuring the Tyson family does convey a critical element to the audience. It makes it clear that Oxford is a town where racial prejudice and distrust is very potent at the time, showing you how foul things were, and making you understand why the African-American citizens reacted like they did. However, this could of been done much quicker, without spending so much needless time with the Tyson family.
The film does have some powerful moments with a story fully worth telling (you just wish it would have been told in a better way). The second hour of the film where the results of the crime and justice not being served are depicted are much more potent than what happens in the film’s first 40 minutes. Although there is nothing wrong with a long buildup if it adds significantly to the rest of the film, but the Tyson elements don’t specifically lead to much of a payoff.
BLOOD DONE would have been much more interesting if it featured a more sprawling account of the critical effects that came as a result of the death of Henry Marrow. It could have gone even further in its coverage of the aftermath of Marrow’s death in the same amount of, or even less, time if the Tyson’s were cut, and it could have done this easily by following the character of Ben Chavis (Nate Parker) longer. Ben was a teacher who played a major part in the uprising, and is already featured often in the film. Ben Chavis became a large voice in the movement for racial equality following Marrow’s death; and given how the film unfolds, never making much of the Tysons involvement, seems a much better choice to start and the end film (he appears starting early, but the Tysons are still the focus of the film’s beginning). Chavis seems to be the better person to build the film’s story around, especially in hindsight. Not much if anything is gained from the Tysons kicking things off in regards to depth or impact. Chavis' played a major part in the outcry against and response to the court’s decision, and his civil rights career was one of the important results that came out of the uprising. We see Chavis fairly on in the film, but not enough compared to how much of the Tysons we get in the beginning. And we are not given a compelling reason by director Jeb Stuart why the film starts and nearly ends with the Tysons and not Chavis.
Of course, the Tysons being featured heavily early on no doubt has to do with the fact BLOOD DONE SIGN MY NAME is based on the book by Tim Tyson. And the book may be written and developed in a way that their mention adds to its impact or creates depth, but that is not the case with the film. The screenplay for BLOOD DONE fails to justify why the Tyson’s are given so much screen time as the family falls into background for most of the film’s second half. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done creating a meandering pace and not hooking the audience nearly as strongly as it should.
Commenting Rules: Comments are intended to open up the discussion to our readers about the topics at hand, and as such should be offered with a positive and constructive attitude. If your comment is not relative to the above post or is disrespectful to the authors and readers, we reserve the right to delete it. Continued abuse of our good nature will result in banishment of the offender. Additionally, if you have any burning issues to point out to the GATW crew - typos, corrections, suggestions, or straight-up criticism - please email us instead of commenting here.
Pingback: Rental Series – Trade Deadline – The NHL Arena | Phoenix Coyotes NHL Announcer
Pingback: Short Sales Up and Foreclosures a Larger Percentage of Purchases | Georgia Real Estate
Pingback: Latest Domain Name Registration Auctions | World online hosting review
Pingback: Latest Domain Name Auctions | World online hosting review