A real-life high-profile death row case taken on by a legendary public defense lawyer tops new DVD releases for the week of April 14.
“Just Mercy”: Young, idealistic Harvard Law grad Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) moves to Alabama after spending a summer interning there and witnessing a taste of the massive disparities and racism of its criminal justice system. With the help of a local woman, Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), he establishes the Equal Justice Initiative and sets out to help those on death row fight for their lives. One of those prisoners is Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a black man who was wrongfully accused of murdering a white woman. (The film is based on Stevenson’s memoir, “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.”) McMillian is incredulous, as Stevenson has only just begun to experience the threatening uphill battles by those in local power.
Director Destin Daniel Cretton and director of photography Brett Pawlak deftly put the audience into the claustrophobic discomfort the men face, physically and mentally. They offer an empathetic lens into how the traumatic injustices add up, often leading to perhaps the most devastating kind of imprisonment: within one’s wounded mind.
Although the dialogue tends to hit the typical legal docudrama beats a little too hard and a little too on the nose, leaving the characters feeling somewhat surface level, the film is most effective in the quiet moments in which the audience can sit with the vast, tragic implications of what Stevenson, McMillian and others are facing.
“The film portrays the ferocious resistance of some people to the possibility that this man had nothing to do with the crime,” wrote critic Kenneth Turan in his Los Angeles Times review. “And that’s when ‘Just Mercy’ is at its best.”
ALSO NEW ON DVD APRIL 14
“Underwater”: After an earthquake damages their trench facility, a team of researchers struggles to get back to the surface safely. Kristen Stewart stars.
“Criminal Minds: The Final Season”: The long-running hit CBS procedural crime drama comes to an end.
“Final Kill”: A mercenary must protect a couple from a crime family in Costa Rica. Stars Billy Zane, Randy Couture and Ed Morrone.
“The Righteous Gemstones: Season 1”: A televangelist family fights to protect their megachurch empire in this HBO sitcom. Stars John Goodman, Danny McBride, Adam Devine and Edi Patterson.
OUT ON DIGITAL HD APRIL 14
“Bias”: This documentary explores the power of bias and its influences on all aspects of our lives.
“Endings, Beginnings”: A woman (Shailene Woodley) meets two friends at a party and makes unexpected discoveries about her own life.
“Fantasy Island”: As guests at a tropical resort must uncover a mystery to leave a remote island, their paradise turns into a nightmare. Look for it on DVD and Blu-ray May 12.
“Green Rush”: When criminals invade their land, a weed farmer and his pregnant girlfriend fight back.
“Ray & Liz”: A family struggles in poverty and alcoholic destruction in Thatcher era England.
“The Rhythm Section”: A grieving woman (Blake Lively) seeks revenge after a premeditated attack on a plane kills her family. Out on DVD and Blu-ray April 28.
OUT ON DIGITAL HD APRIL 17
“The Quarry”: A fugitive takes over a small-town preacher’s identity after killing him. Stars Shea Whigham, Michael Shannon and Catalina Sandino Moreno.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.