Hollywood churns out a huge amount of flicks each year based on actual events, but once in a while audiences are treated to a gem and “American Violet” is a prime example.
Based on true events in the midst of the 2000 election, this penetrating drama centers on Dee Roberts (Beharie), a mother of four who's forced to take on a corrupt district attorney (O'Keefe) when she's unjustly prosecuted in a large-scale drug case.
Whilst working her shift as a waitress in a diner in a small Texan town, Roberts is dragged from work in handcuffs and charged as a drug dealer after her Arlington Springs housing project is raided by police. With no prior drug record and no evidence of drugs in any subsequent searches, she is offered a plea bargain and a hellish choice -- either she pleads guilty to a crime she didn’t commit and leaves jail as a convicted felon, or goes to trial with the prospect of a 25-year sentence if found guilty. With her freedom and the custody of her children at stake, Roberts chooses to fight the district attorney and the criminal justice system he represents, risking everything in a battle which changes her life and the Texas justice system.
Directed by Tim Disney, this inspiring flick also stars Woodard as Roberts’ mother Alma, Blake Nelson as attorney David Cohen, Patton as retired narcotics officer Sam Conroy, Xzibit and Dutton.
An extraordinary tale of personal courage, newcomer Beharie as Roberts does such a remarkable job of trying to be strong that she tugs at the heartstrings and is perfect for the role. With a wonderfully expressive face and performance as a striving single mother of four young girls, she excellently conveys the gradual erosion of a woman’s self-worth and infuses a standard plot with extraordinary emotional conviction. Although some scenes can feel depressingly schematic and exhausting, audiences will cry, squirm and root for Roberts as she experiences a rollercoaster of pitfalls and barriers. Most poignant is the scene where out of sheer frustration and anger she destroys an ex-boyfriend’s property (Xzibit) and a subsequent arrest almost jeopardizes her case just as the wheels of justice have started to grind.
With impassioned performances, “American Violet” is a good and powerful flick which aptly highlights the flaws of America’s racially biased judicial system.