American Violet opens in the kitchen of a Texas housing project, as a mother makes breakfast for her children. She pours water into a tea kettle; serves eggs; hurries the kids along – a lovely, peaceful scene. Then the film cuts abruptly to police preparing for a raid: they load their weapons (I believe the first shot is of a gun), put on armor, and pile en masse into trucks. The moment we move from the kitchen table to the police staging area, the soundtrack changes too, from a languid, piano-tinged theme to a percussive arrangement that screams evil.
This approach is representative of much of the movie, which is a strident, aggressive polemic against racism in the justice system, as well as the story of a courageous woman who risked much to sue an all-powerful District Attorney. It is straightforward, unambiguous, and often frankly partisan, hitting its talking points hard without ever really peering under the surface. The tale it tells is reasonably compelling, and as a legal thriller the film more or less works. But much of it is obvious and ham-fisted – the sort of Serious Drama you might expect to see on basic cable. Adventurous moviegoers won't find much of interest here.