Proprietor Pine Top Purvis (Danny Glover) has everything riding on a break-the-bank weekend, the only chance he has to save his club. He's counting on a big-draw appearance by radio star "Guitar Sam," though it's the appearance of a young drifter (Gary Clark Jr.) with a homemade electric ax that will prove unexpectedly serendipitous. It's a sturdy enough ticking-clock premise, serving as a vantage from which to survey the black life of Harmony, Alabama, circa 1950. as Pine Top's story touches on tent revivals, cotton fields, and domestic-and-mistress interplay. Writer-director John Sayles takes a relaxed approach, letting characters congeal, and Glover is the keystone in an ensemble delivering very human performances. But that same leisurely attitude becomes a problem when the plot starts demanding attention again the twists of the film's final section will feel excruciatingly inevitable to anyone who has seen a movie before, and the payoff isn't there. We're supposedly seeing the ground zero of plugged-in blues of rock and roll. But when it's time to re-create that moment, the flashpoint performance (by Clark) lacks charisma though it's true that "Good Rockin' Tonight" never sounded like this before.
John SaylesDanny Glover, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Yaya DaCosta, Charles S. Dutton, Vondie Curtis Hall, Gary Clark, Jr., Dr. Mable John, Stacy Keach, Nagee Clay, Absalom AdamsJohn SaylesJohn Sayles, Maggie RenziEmerging Pictures