Father Unlike Son
On Sunday 15th September 1963 as the parishioners of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama were in full praise a bomb exploded killing 4 young girls who were in the washroom. As the police questioned members of the Ku Klux Klan knowing full well they were behind it they couldn't get enough evidence or witnesses to arrest the men and on the orders of J. Edgar Hoover (Tom McBeath) the case is closed. But 35 years later the FBI decide to reopen the case forcing Tom Cherry (Tom Sizemore) to confront his past as back in 1963 he was just a boy but knew full well his father was involved in the bombing. Now 35 years later and having moved away has to decide whether to cover for his father or be true to himself and tell the FBI what he knows something which his friend Garrick (Ving Rhames) urges him to do.
I wasn't even born in 1963 when the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church happened and so can only guess at the uproar which the bombing and murder of four young girls caused especially when the case was closed. But for that reason I don't know how much fact and fiction has been used in "Sins of the Father" and the drama of a son dealing with what he remembers about his father. What I do know is that writer John Pielmeier has written a well thought out story which takes us back and forth between the past and the present showing many aspects of life both then and now.
As I said "Sins of the Father" takes us back and forth between the past and present with the past dealing very much with Tom's memories of growing up in the 1960s. We see how he remembers the good things about his childhood, how children played in the streets and how he would head to a bar with his father and his younger brother and get a free coke from the barman. But we also see how as a child he didn't fully comprehend what his father and friends were up to, when they decided to pour cement into a public swimming pool because of new legislation which meant it would become mixed young Tom and his brother cheered them on, oblivious to what is really going on. It is well done to show the innocence of youth and how as a young child it is easy to get caught up in the situation especially when the family go to Klan picnics where the men openly walk around in their robes.
But we also see the issues in the present as Tom has to deal with his personal conflict over loyalty and doing what is right. It is well worked as several factors come in to play like they would in real life from friendships to that mix of family loyalty and doing what you know is morally right. But at the same time we see how the situation builds the pressure on Tom's shoulders especially as the FBI start their investigation again and he starts to remember more of the bad stuff from his childhood which he had blocked out.
Now let me say now that if you are offended by racism and racist language "Sins of the Father" will offend as it doesn't hold back. It is unpleasant but also extremely hard hitting and I praise director Robert Dornhelm from no shying away from showing this side of the movie as trust me some of the scenes will make you feel sick.
Aside from that "Sins of the Father" features Tom Sizemore at his best and showing another side of his skills as an actor as he gets to play the nice guy. Well nice guy might be the wrong word but rather than playing a sleazy creep he gets to show some good guy aspects and brings to life the conflict over loyalty and morality. Richard Jenkins is just as impressive as his aging racist father who manipulates his son left, right and centre with his lies over what happened back then. Plus Ving Rhames rounds this off with a sensitive but strong performance as Garrick.
What this all boils down to is that "Sins of the Father" is an extremely powerful movie which doesn't hold back when it comes to showing the racism of the 1960s and then building a modern drama around it with a son's conflict. It will be too brutal for some but it is worth it as it will shock and move you whilst also showing a trio of actors playing difficult roles extremely well.