The opening scene of this adaptation of the August Wilson Pulitzer Prize-winning play is at the back of a garbage truck on a street in suburban Pittsburgh. That gives us hope that the movie is going to expand beyond Troy Maxson’s back yard, which is where most of the source material takes place. Denzel Washington directs and stars as a former Negro League baseball player, who firmly believes his skin color deprived him of a shot at the Major Leagues.

He is bitter, and perhaps because of that, he refuses to let his kid Cory (Jovan Adepo) play football, despite being offered a scholarship. Believing he deserves whatever he can grab, ultimately Troy’s treatment of his wife Rose (Viola Davis) gets worse than that. He is convinced he outwrestled death as a kid and so, as long as he is walking on Earth, he can function as God, at least insofar as his family is concerned. The man is a walking definition of self-centeredness and self-obsession and doesn’t know it. Unfortunately, the late playwright who wrote the screenplay before he died in 2005, pretty much keeps us trapped in Troy’s back yard. And Maxson’s many monologues, while stunning on stage, just wore us down in the film. Denzel has a nice face, but it’s no substitute for the rest of the world.

– Mal Karman

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