White Man’s Burden - *

A “what-if” racial story that doesn’t pack a punch. The movie is set in an alternate universe in which the white and black racial roles have been reversed. John Travolta plays a struggling lower class factory worker who is let go from his job. He vents his frustration by kidnapping the wealthy factory owner, Harry Belafonte. At first, Travolta only seeks the money he would have gotten from his job…but, as can be expected, his plans fall awry. The film’s gimmick succeeds when we get a glimpse of the big picture…unfortunately, it spends most of its time focusing on Travolta, Belafonte and the troubles they encounter. Taken alone, there is nothing terribly strange about a lower class white, an upper class black, or many of the other racial encounters they have (a skinhead gang, white homeless people, black cops, etc.) Since most of this isn’t terribly shocking, what’s left is a rather mundane story of a kidnapping. Both of the main parts are written rather lazily, and not very interestingly. Travolta comes off as rather desperate, and Belafonte is a bit too likeable. What could have been a thought provoking and unique insight into racial tensions and difficulties, instead turns out to be a rather dull movie.

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