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American Violet

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Nicole Beharie (The Express), Will Patton (Entrapment, The Postman), Charles Dutton (TV's Roc, Mimic) and Alfre Woodard (TV's Desperate Housewives, Primal Fear) star in this gripping true-life story. Falsely accused of distributing narcotics in a school zone, Dee Roberts (Beharie) is offered a deal she can't refuse: plead guilty and accept a 10-year suspended sentence. The alternative: risk serving 16-to-25 in jail. Realizing a conviction would ruin her life, Dee decides to fight back. Suing the DA for racial discrimination, Dee battles impossible odds in a case that will not only change her life but the laws of Texas as well.

American Violet may be based on the story of outrageous injustices committed against Regina Kelly of Hearne, Texas, but that does not make it a good film. It is, at best, a bad film with an important message. American Violet is about a single mother of four, Dee Roberts (Nicole Beharie), who is wrongly convicted of drug charges due to police racism and corruption. As she struggles to stay out of prison with the help of her mother, Alma (Alfre Woodard), Dee exemplifies a stalwart woman who refuses to plead guilty when offered a plea bargain. While names of characters and the town itself are changed, the story in American Violet is allegedly altered only slightly in hopes of maintaining its tragic truth, that a plea-bargain system in Texas forced, in this case, impoverished and sometimes innocent African Americans to accept guilty charges and their negative aftereffects. American Violet's melodramatic sensibility attempts to spark the same indignation that fuels ACLU lawyer David Cohen (Tim Blake Nelson) to embark on a lawsuit against the head racist, district attorney Calvin Beckett (Michael O'Keefe). Cohen, with the help of a former narcotics officer, Sam Conroy (Will Patton), discovers enough evidence to disturb any viewer. While it is crucial to have artful dialogue about this politically offensive topic, American Violet is not finely scripted or cinematically engaging enough to elevate it above second-hand documentary. Still, since the film does cover meaningful territory, there may be a place for it in classrooms, or it may inspire others to work on further exposing gross injustice for the benefit of our society. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Nicole Beharie, Will Patton, Alfre Woodard, Charles S. Dutton, Xzibit
  • Directors: Tim Disney
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • DVD Release Date: October 13, 2009
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002FUIJ24
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,980 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "American Violet" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Karen Franklin on April 28, 2009
Wouldn't it be terrible to find yourself jailed for something you did not do, based solely on the word of a lying, mentally ill drug addict? That's what happened to Regina Kelly in Hearne, Texas back in 2000. Ensnared in a mass arrest of suspected drug dealers at her housing project, the young single mother was charged with selling drugs in a school zone. Despite her insistence that she was innocent, her court-appointed attorney pressured her to accept a plea bargain to avoid many years in prison and the loss of her children. With no criminal record and no drugs found on or near her, she refused the deal. Instead, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union she filed a class action lawsuit.

Although Kelly's case was reported in a documentary by PBS' cutting-edge Frontline back in 2004, American Violet brings a fictionalized version to a broader, mass audience. Co-director Bill Haney (along with Tim Disney) says he heard about Kelly's case on National Public Radio as he was driving; it so moved him that he pulled his car over to the side of the road and cried.

In this film, "Dee Roberts" (a magnificent Nicole Beharie) is the plaintiff in a class-action case over racial discrimination in drug enforcement. Tim Blake Nelson plays David Cohen, the ACLU lawyer who sues district attorney Calvin Beckett (Michael O'Keefe) on her behalf.

Kelly is quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying the film is "90 percent accurate." The depositions, the courtroom scene in which she fights to retain custody of her children, and many other scenes are word-for-word accounts.

Like Clint Eastwood's
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Kym on October 4, 2009
Format: DVD
Seen a viewing of 'AMERICAN VIOLET' recently.. And I had mixed emotions: upset, melancholy, ecstatic, and surprised! To be falsely accused of a crime, that you know deep in your heart you did NOT commit, is one thing... But when your so-called lawyer suggests you to take a plea bargain, oppose to fighting for your clearance makes one wonder who can you trust... This movie, based on factual events, is heartwrenching, as it is an eye-opener!!! I'd recommend that everyone sees this flick, even teens!!! Granted this ocurred in Melody, Texas, it's taking place worldwide...

PS... Superb performances by all: Nicole Beharie, Alfre Woodard, Will Patton, even Anthony Mackey!!! Applause, followed by a standing ovation!!!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jerry P. Danzig on November 16, 2009
Format: DVD
This is quite simply the most moving and powerful film I've seen this year. In fact, the film had me from the opening credits, where scenes of a young black mother getting her kids up out of bed and ready for the day are juxtaposed with scenes of police getting their armaments ready for an assault on a government housing project.

"American Violet" is based on a true story, and while the film makers combined some characters and condensed the passage of time for dramatic purposes, the key events of the film are as they happened in real life.

It's just another day in Bush Texas, where counties were given government money for making drug convictions. Worse, citizens could be accused and arrested based on the testimony of a single informant, in this case a young paranoid schizophrenic whose testimony would never hold up in court.

How then did the government prevail in these cases? By offering suspects a plea bargain: plead guilty and pay a fine but serve no jail time. What they didn't tell those who accepted the pleas were the terrible consequences: no further government benefits, no government housing subsidies, felonies on their records, and no further right to vote as American citizens.

Appallingly, this film reveals that ninety percent of all the cases in the American "justice" system are resolved by these profoundly inequitable plea bargains. What's more, an African-American man is more likely to serve time in jail in contemporary America than to graduate from college.

This story focuses on the young mother accused of dealing drugs.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Katrina L. Burchett VINE VOICE on November 24, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
One minute Dee Roberts (Nicole Beharie) is making an honest living as a waitress and sharing her dreams with a customer and soon after she's snatched away by police. Her four daughters go without their mother for twenty-one days while she spends time in jail for a crime she did not commit.

Dee lives in Melody, TX. The police have been raiding her community of Arlington Springs since she was a child, terrorizing less fortunate people of color and her so-called lawyer wants her to become one of many affected by plea bargains. Dee could have been like those who pleaded guilty under duress, but it was the love she had for her own children that gave her the courage to make a difficult choice. She decided to help ACLU lawyers David Cohen and Bryon Hill and a lawyer who resided in Melody, TX, Sam Conroy (Will Patton), fight to make things right. Dee was advised against taking a stand and, yes, she was afraid at times but she had the support of people close to her and she took her problems to Jesus.

When I heard about this film months ago I believe it only played in select theaters so I didn't get to see it. I was glad to come across it on dvd. Like most movies dealing with racial discrimination, parts of this movie irritated me but I did like American Violet.

"After what they did to me, mama, they made it my business!" - I liked that line. And the words confidential informant Porter (Anthony Mackie) spoke at the end of the pre-trail deposition - deep.
American Violet is based on a true story and I applaud Regina Kelly for her courage.
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