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Roger Davidson

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An interesting and compassionate drama by John Sayles, following the lives of a small mining town and the labor troubles that come with the territory of life in the 1920's. Young drifter Joe Kenehan (Sayles regular, Chris Cooper) is the man that is attempting to form a united union among Matewan county. He has helpful support from the towering black coal miner "Few Clothes" Johnson (James Earl Jones), Elma Radnor (Mary McDonnell) who runs the local boarding house, and young Danny Radnor (Will Oldham) a teenage coal miner and town preacher, who is more helpful to Cooper than anybody in the entire county.

Simply outstanding! Sayles has made a contemporary version of the old John Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath days, as well as recreating the era of The South during the roaring twenties. The film is full of lush cinematography by Haskell Wexler, a strong cast of characters and realistic story and dialogue. Plus, it has some memorably slimy villains, played by Kevin Tighe and Gordon Clapp as the mining companies hired thugs, who attempt to get things back in order in Matewan. David Strathairn is equally impressive as the hard-headed town sheriff, who will not tolerate Tighe and Clapp's bullying of the townsfolk. If you'd ever want to get into John Sayles films, this is the one to start with.

My Rating = Four Stars

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