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White Man's Burden
White Man's Burden
Actors: John Travolta, Harry Belafonte, Kelly Lynch, Margaret Avery, Tom Bower
Director: Desmond Nakano
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
R     1999     1hr 29min

From the producer of "Pulp Fiction" --set in a time where color roles have been reversed, John Travolta is Louis Pinnock--a poor man struggling to keep his wife and children fed and clothed. But when he loses his job, Pinn...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: John Travolta, Harry Belafonte, Kelly Lynch, Margaret Avery, Tom Bower
Director: Desmond Nakano
Creators: Willy Kurant, Desmond Nakano, Nancy Richardson, JoAnn Fregalette Jansen, Lawrence Bender, Paul Hellerman, Yves Marmion
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Hbo Home Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 05/11/1999
Original Release Date: 12/01/1995
Theatrical Release Date: 12/01/1995
Release Year: 1999
Run Time: 1hr 29min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

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Member Movie Reviews

Reviewed on 2/11/2024...
0 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Susan E. H. (Bookmom) from DURHAM, NC
Reviewed on 4/11/2014...
Great commentary on how society has changed. Sad ending.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

White Man's Burden
Malcolm Lawrence | 02/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This could be the film that is needed to refer to right now as whites and blacks in this culture finally begin to circle each other, trying to decide how best to get down and dirty with that damn bugaboo of race and it's shadow players of class, justice and power. John Travolta plays Louis Pinnock, a factory worker for See's Candies with a history of exemplary company loyalty working his way towards a promotion. He's been with the company many years, dutifully doing his job, looking forward to the day, any day now, that he'll finally get his much-deserved promotion to foreman. He has a wife, a little boy, a small house in the part of the city that doesn't have any sidewalks, and some sort of problem with pride because his wife (Kelly Lynch) wants to work, but Louis gives her the evil eye every time she brings it up. One day after work, just at quitting time, Louis's boss asks Louis and his coworker if one of them could take a small package across town to drop off to Thaddeus Thomas (Harry Belafonte) the owner of the company who has an estate. Louis steps forward and grabs the package immediately, even though he'll be delivering it on his own time and happily takes his beat-up old white truck across town to deliver the package. When he gets to the estate of Mr. Thomas he ends up approaching it from the back way without realizing it, walks up to the house, looks up and inadvertently sees Mr. Thomas's wife nude through an upstairs window. Mr. Thomas, who is watching him through the window as he stands right next to his unclothed wife, says to Louis' boss on the phone "Send another delivery boy next time. Not another peeping tom." These few words set off a chain reaction that ricochets for the rest of the movie, serpentining it's way through the issue of color by presenting a mirror image for society to see: Louis and his family (in fact ALL whites in this picture) live in a black world. When Louis's little boy flips the channels on the remote control, EVERY television station has nothing but black faces. Black game shows. Black soap operas. Black news broadcasts with violators referred to as "Caucasian". Black commercials. The family of Mr. Thomas all sit around, fat and happy, at their gigantic dinner table talking about how inferior the white race is. Scary? Wait until you see the look of incredulous horror of Thaddeus' face when he sees one white man gun down another. What screenwriter and first time director Desmond Nakano (Last Exit To Brooklyn, American Me) has created is a horror movie for white folk, and this SHOULD scare the white folk who have never thought twice about their hegemony in society, and the responsibility it brings. Since he has directly inverted the equation, the question of skin color is shown to be completely moot as the real underlying issues of class and power are revealed to be the causes they really are, not the effects. This is a film about a situation that gets out of hand due to a simple misunderstanding that is dealt with so offhandedly that the ensuing consequences were never even contemplated by the perpetrator and they come back not only to haunt him, but to place him on the threshold of death's door. I don't want to reveal any more of the plot for a reason: The script is so good that when law-abiding Louis finds himself in the worst of all desperate situations, scene follows scene so haphazardly as a reflection of his thought processes because he has completely freaked out. He has no idea what he is going to do next, and the tension of the film is wound so tightly because the film is through Louis's eyes, and there is nothing more dangerous than a criminal who has not thought out his own motivation. John Travolta's performance is exceptional because he doesn't have any of his standard suave moves or cool facade to lean back on, ala Pulp Fiction or Get Shorty. He's a blue-collar worker who has become accustomed to his lower rung in society, yet has accepted his responsibilities with pride and diligence. He has been a considerate, patient, law-abiding citizen his whole life and has worked hard for his position and his family, no matter how slightly above the poverty line he may be swimming, and when he realizes that all he's worked so hard for means nothing to the heartless authority figures that begin to circle around him like vultures who insist on remaining oblivious to his circumstance he begins to behave like a cornered rat. When the film is over and the cards have fallen where they have, what is left is a tragedy that, like all tragedies, could have been so easily avoided if only two minutes of someone's time could have been negotiated. Take someone you know to this film. Take that person who you know as an acquaintance whom you've never wanted to have as a friend just because they don't understand it's not about the color of someone's skin, it's about character. Talk to them extensively about the issues in this film on your way home. Make sure they get it."
On The Outside Looking In
L. Shirley | fountain valley, ca United States | 05/23/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This review refers to "White Man's Burden"(VHS)...

Fresh off his success as a take no prisoners hitman, in "Pulp Fiction", John Travolta steps into the shoes of another man with a gun, Louis Pinnock. Louis is your everyday factory worker, living from pay check to pay check to support his family. He lives in the inner-city, and hopes to someday get just a little ahead, so he can move his family to a quieter, safer place. He's about to have a really bad week!

Volunteering to run an errand, delivering a package to factory owner Thaddius Thomas (Harry Belafonte), Louis has the unfortunate timing to glance Belafonte's wife as she undresses, and worse, Thomas sees him. The next thing we know,circumstances go from bad to worse. Louis is out of a job, a home and his mind. Blaming his boss, he feels he is "owed" what he lost,and becomes a desperate man.He kidnaps Belafonte, from his very upscale home and car at gunpoint.

This film is a real eye-opener. You may think you understand what it is like for inner-city, black families(or any minority group)and feel empathetic, but this is a film that will really make you sit up and take notice.

The roles are reversed.Travolta's character and his family are treated very much like second or third class citizens.Police automatically assume guilt, and take whatever means they want to make an arrest. The inner-city is mostly inhabited by whites, and is portrayed as crime infested neighborhoods. A little white boy is watching TV, as he flips through the channels, almost every program and commercial are black actors. The little boy wants a super hero action toy for his birthday. The super hero is black and more expensive then the white side kick, but the little boy wont settle for less.An elegant fashion show is put on by the very wealthy. It is to benefit the inner-city kids. The kids are showcased at the end... they are all white... the audience dressed to the nines, all black.

The film doesn't completely say everything is either black or white. It shows there is good and bad in every walk of life,has a sprinkling of whites in jobs that yield some power, but gives a good look at what many people must endure as human beings in day-to day life. It's not just about's about the nature of man. How will Belafonte's character react, when he becomes desperate to escape his situation as well? Does it matter what color you are when faced with adversity?

The cast really became the characters they portrayed. Travolta and Belafonte were excellent. A young Andrew Lawrence, Magaret Avery(The Color Purple)and Tom bower add their talents as well.Even the angry gang members, played by stunt guys including Tony Zeller were very believable. A film for times you may want a little more substance then just entertainment.

It is a film that will make you think.It is a film that has something to say. It says it well, but it is probably not one that would stand up to repeated viewings. A rental would be best if you can find this obscure film.....Laurie
Changes Your Thinking
Mushroom | 05/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I know some people have said that this movie doesn't take into consideration other minorities, but I think it is successful it achieving it's purpose. I am a white person and I was so moved by this movie. It's easy to be like the wife and say "oh, these poor inner-city kids are so cute" and help them out and feel like you're being compassionate, but I found myself feeling a little offended by her reaction. It was like a reality-check for me because it made me realize how I must come across to other people in my thinking. I think it's a powerful movie that everyone should watch. It may have focused on one minority, but I think if it really touches someone, they'll translate that toward other minorities. Excellent, thought-provoking, thought-changing movie! Well, done!!!! Thanks for doing it!!!"