Reel Reviews | The Burial

By Charles Kirkland Jr.

Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones team up in a David vs. Goliath battle inspired by true events in The Burial.

The O’Keefe family funeral homes have fallen on a bit of hard times.  Jerry O’Keefe (Tommy Lee Jones) has leveraged all of his money to keep the business afloat.  Embroiled in an insurance default, he finds that he is in need of cash quickly.  At the suggestion of his lawyer Mike (Alan Ruck), Jerry turns to the Loewen Group, a Canadian company that is trying to corner the market in funeral homes in the United States.  After a dispute in the drawn contract to sell some of his homes, Jerry turns to personal injury lawyer, Willie E. Gary (Jamie Foxx) to take down the giant corporation and save his family’s business.

The Burial is loosely based on the true story of lawyer Willie E. Gary and his client Jeremiah Joseph O’Keefe’s lawsuit against the Loewen funeral company, as documented in the 1999 New Yorker article of the same name by Jonathan Harr.  The legal drama is directed by Maggie Betts and written by Betts and Doug Wright. The film stars Jamie Foxx as Gary, Tommy Lee Jones as O’Keefe, Jurnee Smollett, Mamoudou Athie, Alan Ruck, Dorian Missick, and Bill Camp.

Award winner, Jamie Foxx just naturally oozes charisma and, in this film, turns it up to eleven.  In a role that is just as flamboyant if not more than his Willie Beamon role, Foxx is magical as the over-the-top super lawyer who turns out to have a heart of gold to match the jewelry he wears.  The surprise of the movie is how well Award-winner Tommie Lee Jones works with Foxx.  Jones, the consummate professional, holds his own against the flashiness of Foxx by being steady and sure, mostly.  Jones has his moments though and shows that he can have as much fun as Foxx.  It is impossible to overlook the work of the rest of the supporting cast.  Missick, Ruck, Smollett, and Athie complete an ensemble that could easily be as great as the ensembles in Air, Dumb Money, or any other great groupings of the year.

As fall has come upon us, the prestige movies begin to fall as well.  Amazon has released The Burial for a week in theaters for consideration and honestly, this film is way too good to be on any streaming platform.  Not classically a prestige movie, The Burial is much more commercial than usually expected this time of year.  Surely Jones could be in the running for a supporting acting consideration and depending upon the field, Foxx could be considered for best actor.  But that is not what this film is about.  This is a David vs. Goliath tale plain and simple, with the expected conclusion.  But sometimes it is the journey that is important. 

Director and co-writer Maggie Betts (Novitiate) has a steady hold on the work of Foxx, Jones, and the rest of the cast, creating a film that is so entertaining that it doesn’t matter how formulaic the story is.  Her execution of the story and its deliverance is spot-on in all its themes.  The movie is sad when it is supposed to be.  It’s hilarious when it should be too.

Rated R for language, The Burial is one of the most entertaining movies of the year. It is a true standout for the time and shows that not everything in the prestige field has to be a depressing introspective look at the world. 

The Burial is streaming on Amazon Prime.

Grade: A