October 11th, 2023
MOVIE: THE BURIAL
STARRING: JAMIE FOXX, TOMMY LEE JONES, JURNEE SMOLLETT, ALAN RUCK, MAMOUDOU ATHIE, BILL CAMP
DIRECTED BY: MAGGIE BETTS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The way I describe the acting of Jamie Foxx is similar to a great athlete. Michael Jordan on the basketball court or Tom Brady on the football field, you just get the ball in their hand, and you watch them go to work. That’s who Foxx is as an actor. He’s a superstar of the profession, yet still never given the credit he deserves, even with an Oscar, it seems like he should have more, or at least more than two nominations (I hope he gets his third nomination for They Cloned Tyrone). The Burial is the perfect avenue for watching Foxx go to work. A courtroom drama, mixed with a good bit of comedy, that often feels like a throwback similar to My Cousin Vinny, but keeping the dramatic heft similar to Erin Brockovich. It’s Tommy Lee Jones and Jamie Foxx playing in the sandbox of acting and boy is it fun to watch them go to work.
Based on the true events from 1995, a man in Mississippi named Jeremiah O’Keefe (Tommy Lee Jones) was the owner of his family-run business of funeral homes. The business went back generations and for O’Keefe it was something he hoped to leave to his children and his grandchildren. When a few misguided business deals put him in debt, O’Keefe was in desperate need of help, which is when Ray Loewen (Bill Camp) swooped in to buy three of his six funeral homes, but when The Loewen Group failed to sign the contract, they attempted to wait out for O’Keefe to run out of business and just get them all on the cheap. What they didn’t prepare for was personal injury lawyer Willie Gary (Foxx) and for Willie Gary, he had a reputation and a perfect record to keep intact.
The story follows O’Keefe, his legal counsel of Mike Allred (Alan Ruck), and Hal Dockins (Mamoudou Athie) in figuring out if they have a case. When Foxx enters as Gary, the energy turns up, along with the humor that comes from his backup council. When The Loewen Group counters with their own cutthroat team of lawyers, led by Jurnee Smollett as the fierce Mame Downes, this is where it becomes about sharp legal strategy, capturing the theatrics inside the courtroom and the personalities of two lawyers with much to prove.
A surprising fact about The Burial is that it is directed by Maggie Betts. Her previous film Novitiate was a tense story about a nun struggling with her faith and the church’s view on sexuality. This is a complete departure, but Betts not only shows off her versatility, she also paces the story like she’s done it before. The minor issues are that The Burial can be a bit too standard, not doing enough to raise it above the caliber of best of the year, but still a solid production. The screenplay written by Betts, Doug Wright, and Jonathan Harr understands what makes a legal drama sing. That means allowing the actors to play off one another and trusting them to stay in their lanes.
That is where it goes back to Foxx. He chews up and swallows every scene. Like a musician up on stage with all eyes on him, he opens with a sermon to his church and nails his closing arguments. It’s his show and Jones isn’t afraid to take the backseat. The two of them work great together and make an argument that we need movies like The Burial every week. With the team of Betts, Jones, and Foxx you can guarantee that they will win. I rest my case.
THE BURIAL OPENS IN SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY OCTOBER 6TH, 2023, AND ON PRIME VIDEO FRIDAY OCTOBER 13TH, 2023.
Written by Leo Brady