EDITOR’S NOTE: A short break from the 21st Century Films with this non-Cannon-produced TV movie that was released by them in the UK on the Cannon Screen Entertainment Limited video label.
Adapted from the book Deadly Force by Lawrence O’Donnell — who now hosts The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC — this made-for-TV movie was released on video by Cannon yet is at odds with so many of the subjects presents by the action-heavy studio.
In a Cannon film, the near-vigilante tactics of the Boston Tactical Unit would be celebrated. Here, this fact-based tale of the 1975 cover-up of an unjustified shooting of a black man by two white members of this police group presents the police as overactive and brutal.
Despite claims of self-defense, the dead man’s widow Pat Bowden (Lorraine Toussaint) claims that her husband would not be carrying a weapon. She hires former cop and current lawyer Lawrence O’Donnell Sr. (Richard Crenna) to clear her husband’s name.
At one point, Lawrence reveals to his legal team — made up of sons Michael, Lawrence Jr., Billy and Kevin (John Shea, Tate Donovan, Tom Isbell, and Dylan Baker) that his father’s death was listed as a suicide and how that impacted the way that the world saw the man that he loved forever after. The case, for him, has become personal, clearing Bowden’s name being seen as him atoning for the way he saw his father.
Director Michael Miller made several films that I dug, like Silent Rage, Jackson County Jail and Class Reunion. He turned those movies into a run of TV movies. Writer Dennis Nemec also was a TV movie veteran and they combined to make a pretty solid film here.