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Missing this 'Deadline' wouldn't be a travesty

The creators of Deadline (PG-13) deserve less credit for making the movie than how they're selling it. In terms of cinematic quality it's nothing special; rudimentary production values, predictable drama and forced performances, except for an entertaining country ham turn by B-movie king Eric Roberts.

Deadline would head directly to home video like most of Roberts' movies, if not for a savvy marketing campaign. The plot involves a reporter solving a cold case, a racially motivated murder, so producers go city to city encouraging newspaper sponsorship of $25-per-ticket premieres benefiting local charities. (The Times declined sponsoring a recent Tampa event.)

Good ballyhoo, mediocre movie.

Steve Talley plays Matt Harper, a Nashville Times reporter reminded by debutante Trey Hall (Lauren Jenkins) that the killer of a young African-American 19 years earlier hasn't been caught. Steve sets aside personal issues — failing romance, father with cancer, a clueless publisher — to rattle a rural town's skeletons and uncover the truth. Nothing that we haven't seen before and edgier in A Time to Kill and Ghosts of Mississippi, or any number of cable TV flicks.

For extra grass roots appeal, director Curt Hahn and screenwriter Mark Etheridge (adapting his novel) add a minor faith-based subtext. Deadline begins with a shot of a church steeple where the minister (Darryl Van Leer) preaches before a large crucifix carved from a lynching tree. The prop's clunky introduction guarantees its encore at an appropriately uplifting juncture, right after the obligatory courtroom scene. C

Steve Persall, Times movie critic

Missing this 'Deadline' wouldn't be a travesty 03/13/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 6:25pm]
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