A memorial service for a martyred civil-rights leader squelches a big development company’s scheme to raze a black community in “Gospel Hill,” vet thesp Giancarlo Esposito’s directorial debut. Despite the best efforts of a veritable galaxy of stars, including Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson, Danny Glover and Julia Stiles, the potentially thought-provoking concept of historical reconciliation is ill served by a half-baked script that reduces every cliched plot point to jaw-dropping levels of preachiness. Aug. 28 Gotham release is unlikely to shed glory on this best-forgotten effort, already out on DVD.
Pic permits no nuance that is not ruthlessly tied to issues of racism and/or personal integrity. Actors invest their characters with a measure of believability within the film’s stubbornly one-dimensional limitations but prove helpless to lift the proceedings out of the realm of unalloyed if well-intentioned corn. Esposito has given himself the most interesting role as a compromised doctor with a slutty, high-maintenance wife who, in cahoots with villainous developers, uses his neighborhood clinic as a springboard for real-estate exploitation. But even he must succumb to a remorselessly uplifting ending that miraculously heals all divisions.