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Stars: Danny Glover, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Charles S Dutton, YaYa DaCosta, Stacy Keach, Gary Clark Jr, Vondie Curtis-Hall

Director: John Sayles

Gently entertaining if highly predictable - even the nasty sheriff (Keach) kinda comes comes good at the end - director Sayles' new film is set in 1950s' Alabama, where impoverished blacks still pick cotton for a pittance at the white man's bidding.

Pinetop (Glover) looks set to join them as his ramshackle nightclub, Honeydripper, teeters on the brink of bankruptcy. Pinetop's last hope is music legend Guitar Sam, whom he's booked for one evening only - the night before he has to hand over 200 dollars or lose the club, which is not much more than a glorified shack off a dirt road, but his own.

Wandering into town comes Sonny (Clark Jr), carrying something that turns out to be an electric guitar. Seized by the sheriff as a vagrant, Sonny, who has taken a shine to Pinetop's stepdaughter China Doll (DaCosta), is put to work in the cotton fields. But when Guitar Sam proves to be a no-show, you can see that happy ending rockin' and rollin' over the horizon.

Rather too long - one lengthy scene in a local church is especially superfluous - the movie gradually gets it together for the climax, and its sharp-focus photography by Dick Pope is the best in a twelvemonth.

David Quinlan

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Axiom Films. Technicolor.
123 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 03 May 2008