In the Heat of the Night ★★½

Film 4 of my Todd Gaines Movie Challenge: A Movie Starring Warren Oates!

It seems like In the Heat of the Night was awarded the Oscar for Best Picture not because of the quality of the film, but of the surrounding political context at the time. Strip this movie of the civil rights dialogue that was dominating the surrounding American culture at the time of release and you are left with a well acted, but ultimately generic and predictable potboiling thriller. I have no doubt many saw this at the time and thought it was a though provoking, visionary masterpiece. Although the commentary on the brutal treatment of African Americans by the US police force is still scathing and sadly relevant, many aspects now feel dated.

The entire ensemble cast deliver electric performances that manage to deliver the right kind of realistic menace and not some backward hick cliches. I was just left wishing the fairly formulaic murder mystery had as much menace as the big bad wolves who are out to make Virgil Tibbs' life a misery. Oh and Warren Oates, the reason I watched the movie for this challenge? He's pretty damn good too.

Alistair Ryder liked this review