Film review: Honeydripper

Published: Thursday, March 13 2008 3:02 p.m. MDT

Like most, if not all of screenwriter/director John Sayles' films, "Honeydripper" moves to its own unique beats and rhythms.

To some audiences, that might mean this Deep South blues music parable is perhaps a bit too slow-moving and talky for their tastes.

But those who are patient will be rewarded with an engaging cast and the type of rousing ending that makes it worthwhile.

"Honeydripper" is actually based on one of Sayles' short stories and is set in 1950s-era Alabama. Danny Glover stars as Tyrone Purvis, the owner of a struggling nightclub.

Tyrone is already deep in debt to his liquor suppliers, and is in danger of closing unless he can find one big show that will help him to pay off those debts and stay in business a while longer.

While Tyrone tries to entice some big-name performers, his salvation may have already arrived. He's a flashy young stranger named Sonny (Gary Clark Jr.), and he claims to be a guitar prodigy.

But Tyrone, a former musician in his own right, has no patience for Sonny — especially when it appears that the young musician has eyes for his daughter, China Doll (Yaya DaCosta).

Some might balk at a few, supposed character "stereotypes," including a racist sheriff played by Stacy Keach. But they need to remember that this is a fantasy tale of sorts, and those stories are often filled with such character "archetypes."

Besides, Sayles and his cast and crew obviously have much love and appreciation for the music of the time period and region.

Frankly, Glover hasn't seemed this enthusiastic about being in a film in quite some time. And the first-rate supporting cast features welcome veteran Charles S. Dutton, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Keach and others.

Relative newcomers Clark and DaCosta acquit themselves quite nicely as well.

But the film really hinges on the well-staged ending sequence. A "twist" near the film's conclusion won't come as much of a surprise to attentive viewers, but it does end things on the right note.

"Honeydripper" is rated PG-13 for some brief strong violence (a stabbing and some bar brawling), scattered profanity and suggestive language, and racial epithets and other derogatory slurs. Running time: 124 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com

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