Anticipation for “The Burial,” which became available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, is justified due to its star-studded cast. The film boasts the talent of two Oscar-winning actors, Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones, and is directed by Maggie Betts, who co-wrote the screenplay with Doug Wright and Jonathan Harr.
However, the film’s uneven tone tempers any excitement for the story of lawyer Willie Gary and the case that catapulted him to legal stardom.
Based on a true story, Willie Gary is a character that allows Jamie Foxx’s acting prowess to shine. He’s depicted as arrogant, brash, confrontational, and highly intelligent, with an aversion to losing. Gary is brought into the case of Mississippi funeral home owner Jeremiah O’Keefe, played by Tommy Lee Jones, who is on the brink of losing a family business that spans generations. O’Keefe, dealing with the decline of his funeral business, heeds the advice of his family friend and personal lawyer, Mike Allred (portrayed by Alan Ruck from Cleveland), and agrees to sell a portion of his business to a Canadian corporation. This deal, however, is intentionally drawn out by the corporation to financially drain O’Keefe.
Recognizing the deception, O’Keefe resorts to legal action to obtain what was promised to him. However, his lawyer, Allred, is ill-equipped to handle the situation, as he employs a laid-back and genteel style that doesn’t suit the urgency of the moment. O’Keefe seeks the assistance of up-and-coming attorney Hal Dockins, portrayed by Mamoudou Athie, and their quest leads them to Willie Gary, a lawyer with charisma and a track record of courtroom victories.
As the case unfolds, conflicts arise due to the differing backgrounds and approaches of Allred and Gary. The film attempts to slowly build the narrative into a grand revelation, aiming for the expected courtroom drama climax. However, when this moment arrives, it falls somewhat flat.
“The Burial” attempts to address issues of racial exploitation but does so indirectly, without delving deep into the subject matter. The film struggles to effectively balance the legal narrative with the underlying themes of bigotry and broader exploitation that are revealed. Nonetheless, the film benefits from its star-studded cast.
Jamie Foxx’s charisma shines through, despite the character’s constraints, and Tommy Lee Jones appears to relish his role more than he has in years.
While “The Burial” is only screening in select theaters across the country, it may be more suitable for viewing in the comfort of your living room, as it doesn’t quite warrant the price of a theater ticket.