Picks and Pans Review: Heat Wave

updated 08/13/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/13/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

TNT (Mon., Aug. 13, 8 P.M. ET)

A +

I screened a rough cut of this film—which means the editing was unfinished. It's hard to see how they can make this one much better, however.

Intelligently written (by Michael Lazarou), movingly directed (by Kevin Hooks) and brilliantly acted by an ensemble cast led by Cicely Tyson, Blair Underwood and James Earl Jones, Heat Wave recalls the 1965 Watts riots—sparked by a minor traffic infraction—in which 34 were killed over six days (see page 36).

Like Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (a racial morality play that was funny until its shattering climax), Heat Wave also entertains before it jolts. And in these troubled racial times it is quite disturbing to see images of the past (such as scenes of white policemen harassing blacks) coming back to haunt us.

The tragedy unfolds through the eyes of L.A. Law's likable Underwood, who plays a Los Angeles Times messenger turned reporter. Besides Tyson as Underwood's grandmother and Jones as a shoe store owner, Glenn Plummer, Margaret Avery, Vondie Curtis-Hall, David Strathairn, Sally Kirkland and Harold Pruett also turn in top-notch work.

From Our Partners