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Cherry Pop

'Heavens Fall'
(Timothy Hutton, Anthony Mackie, et al / DVD / PG-13 / (2006) 2007 / Allumination Filmworks)

Overview: A tragic true story that began in the spring of 1931 when nine black men were pulled off an Alabama freight train and accused of raping two young white women. The nine young men were quickly tried and sentenced to the electric chair. News of their conviction spread, forcing an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. New York attorney Sam Leibowitz traveled to Alabama in 1933 during segregation to defend the nine young men - sitting in motion a legal battle that ultimately changed the lives of everyone involved as well as the course of American jurisprudence.

DVD Verdict: 'Heavens Fall' wants to be "To Kill A Mockingbird" so bad that the power of its earnest desire could resurrect Gregory Peck from the grave. Victoria Price and Ruby Bates got raped on an Alabama train and everyone seems to think that nine black guys did it. The trial goes off without a hitch and the gang of nine is sentenced to die in the Electric Chair.

That's when the International Labor Defense retained the support of Samuel Leibowitz and sent him to Segregation Era Alabama to fix the legal system. This notion is noble as it is insulting, as they take the power out of the area to set things right and act like the only people that can handle the legal tightrope is someone from outside the area. Especially, when you have the sequence with Leibowitz's computer like breakdown of the things that the local legal teams missed.

The allegations of Leibowitz bribing the girls to testify never comes into play, but you get a taste of it. It all runs together until David Straithirn gets his dramatic moment as the Judge that sets things right. The remainder of the film turns into a feel-good time, as we're lead to believe that justice was served in the final moments of the Scottsboro Boys fourth or fifth trial.

Timothy Hutton gives a riveting performance as Samuel Leibowitz - Hutton's best since his equally fine portrayal of Archie Goodwin in "Nero Wolfe." Bill Sage as prosecuting attorney Thomas Knight, Jr. and David Strathairn as Judge Horton are also excellent in their roles. Bill Smitrovich as co-defense attorney, Maury Chaykin in a cameo role, Francie Swift as Leibowitz' wife, Belle, and James Tolkan as Thomas Knight, Sr. (four other great "Nero Wolfe" actors) were exceptional, too, as was B.J. Britt, as Haywood Patterson, in his film debut. LeeLee Sobieski and Azura Skye as Victoria Price and Ruby Bates were marvelous in their extremely difficult roles.

Also, the score by Tony Llorens was haunting - a perfect accompaniment for the plot and the beautiful cinematography by Paul Sanchez. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Behind the Scenes footage
Optional Spanish Subtitles