Actor Andrew Heckler gives audiences his writing and directing debut in The Fyzz Facility’s race relations drama, Burden. Set in 1996 and based on a true story, Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund) is an Army veteran residing in South Carolina who works a repo man to earn his keep. When we first meet Mike, he’s renovating an old movie theater into a Ku Klux Klan museum. Raised by a father figure and fellow Klansman Tom Griffin (Tom Wilkinson), hate is the only thing Mike knows.
One day while doing his repo collections, Mike comes into contact with a single mother, Judy (Andrea Riseborough), and childhood friend Clarence. (Usher Raymond). After connecting with Judy, Mike slowly begins to questions his beliefs. When Mike decides to leave the KKK, he faces the angry wrath of the organization. Only with the help of local minster Reverend Kennedy (Forest Whitaker) who is looking to shut down the museum, can protect Mike and his newfound love.
When race relations are at a critical time in this country, some moviegoers may question if it’s an appropriate time to release a film like this considering the subject matter. While I can see both sides of it, I also feel that the film’s subject matter is relevant today. Andrew Heckler’s script portrays Mike as a man who has been conditioned to hate those who don’t look like him. Even during the moments of the film where Mike engages in hate crimes, there’s a tiny look of regret in his eyes. Garrett Hedlund does well in the role of a tormented man. Throughout the film, I don’t think there was one moment where the character smiled, which adds to the tortured man’s layers.
The always reliable Forrest Whitaker brings his usual acting bravado to the role of Reverend Kennedy. Whitaker, whose speaking voice naturally commands attention, adds his own depth in his role as a Black man trying to do right by a man who hates you. In the part of Tom Griffin, Tom Wilkinson is downright menacing. The British actor nails another American accent and allows the audience to hate his character.
Andrea Riseborough, who also hails from the United Kingdom, excels with her southern accent. As single mom Judy, Riseborough brings a humanized portrayal to her character. A woman who generally gets along with everyone in town while knowing their differences. She sees the best in Mike and knows there’s more to life then the hate Mike knows. Finally, Usher Raymond elevates a role that could be seen as stunt casting. Instead, the R&B singer continues to show his natural acting chops with his charisma.
Burden isn’t without flaws, though. Though we have tense set up and left up to the viewer’s imagination, Mike’s moment of reflection doesn’t really have a stable arc. One minute Mike is fishing with Clarence’s son and bonding, and then moments later, he’s harassing black teens. That’s an issue that editing could’ve fixed and comes off as lazy writing. Also, the film is a bit overlong, which causes the story to drag.
Despite my few small criticisms, I do recommend Burden. While the film never rises above some of the typical story beats in race relations drama, the film’s acting, particularly that of Garrett Hedlund, raises the film above movie of the week fashion.
Final Grade C+