Picks and Pans Review: Memphis
updated 01/27/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 01/27/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST
It's 1957, and three drifters (Cybill Shepherd, John Laughlin and J.E. Freeman) from Mississippi have just rolled into Memphis to kidnap the grandson of the city's wealthiest black businessman (Moses Gunn) and hold him for ransom. The boy's distraught parents (Vanessa Bell Calloway and Law and Order's Richard Brooks) obey the kidnappers' warning not to contact the police. But the conspiracy snags when Gunn mounts his own investigation and Shepherd grows attached to the child ( Martin Gardner).
Slow but savory, the film, based on Civil War-historian Shelby Foote's novel September, September, establishes a complex relationship between the three mismatched miscreants and matter-of-factly maps the gulf between the races in the South of that era. Of course, Shepherd is the marquee player (she also cowrote the teleplay with Larry McMurtry and Susan Rhinehart), but with her usual patches of woodenness, she gives the only performance that is less than completely satisfying.