"The Burial," a new film from Amazon Prime Video, hits theaters October 6th and streaming on October 13th. This crowd-pleaser is a true David and Goliath story that's sure to have you cheering in your seat. At least that's what happened at the theater where I saw the movie.
You know it's a good one when the people around you in the stadium seating start talking out loud to the characters on the screen and no one gets annoyed. In fact, others joined right in and although most of the audience were strangers to each other, we became community as we watched this story unfold.
Inspired by a true story, The Burial follows Jerry O'Keefe (Tommy Lee Jones), a 75-year-old businessman in Southern Mississippi in 1995. He owns a string of funeral homes as well as an insurance company that sells death insurance, left to him by his daddy. Jerry's only desire is to leave the business as a legacy to his thirteen children. Falling on hard times, he seeks out a buyer for a portion of his homes. With the help of his lifelong friend and lawyer, Mike (Alan Ruck), Jerry meets with Ray Loewen (Bill Camp), CEO of the Loewen Group, a Canadian-based corporation and with a handshake, agrees to sell three of his homes to Loewen.
But the contract never arrives. Jerry signed it but Loewen stalls. And stalls. And stalls, so much so that Jerry and his legal team conclude that the giant corporation is just biding its time, hoping to scoop up the whole operation if and when Jerry declares bankruptcy.
Mamoudou Athie and Tommy Lee Jones in "The Burial." © 2023 Amazon Prime Video. All Rights Reserved.
Instead of giving in to the pressure, Jerry decides to fight back. But there's a problem. Mike exhibits racist behavior and although a good friend of Jerry's, he's not the right guy to try the case, especially in Southern Mississippi. Urged on by fresh-out-of-law-school Hal (Mamoudou Athie), they approach Willie Gary (Jamie Foxx), a Florida lawyer known for his flashy style and no-nonsense attitude. He's never lost a case but Jerry comes to find out that Gary won't take a case he knows he can't win.
When Gary decides to take the case, it's gloves off as the legal battle plays out on screen. Loewen hires Mame Downes (Jurnee Smollett), better known as "The Python." Gary's whole legal team balks when they hear this, afraid of her reputation.
Jamie Foxx as Willie Gary in "The Burial." © 2023 Amazon Prime Video. All Rights Reserved.
The cast gathered for The Burial turns in stellar performances. Tommy Lee Jones is his usual down-home self, which is perfect for Jerry whose integrity rises above all the injustice that's thrown his way. Smollett presents Mame as strong woman, determined to make her mark, even if she must defend a greedy corporation. But it's Foxx who stands out. He plays Willie Gary with the right combination of showmanship, compassion, and humility.
Gary, although successful enough to afford a fancy home where he and his wife, Gloria (Amanda Warren), live, he never forgets where he came from. He visits his Mama every Saturday. It's this part of him that comes appreciate and respect Jerry for his integrity, dedication to the community, and love of his family.
Tommy Lee Jones and Jamie Foxx in "The Burial." © 2023 Amazon Prime Video. All Rights Reserved.
The Burial celebrates justice, especially for the little guy. It reminds me of the story of the widow and the unjust judge in the Gospel (Luke 18: 1-8). Just like the widow, Jerry knew he was in the right and wouldn't give up. Of course, we know that our justice system is wounded and the right doesn't always come out on top. Let's be grateful for the times when it does and pray that truth, honesty, and uprightness, not greed, be the motivating force behind all those who work in the judicial system.