Just out on DVD, American Violet dramatizes a tragic true story

American Violet didn’t generate much attention at the box office when it was released earlier this year (bypassing Cleveland altogether), but that’s not a reason to dismiss the movie, out today on Blu-ray and conventional DVD. Directed by Tim Disney (yes, he’s part of that Disney clan), it’s based on a true story about a Texas narcotics investigation that targeted an innocent woman. As the movie commences, Dee Roberts (Nicole Beharie) has just come home after working her shift at the local diner. Even though the cops find no drugs in her apartment, she gets thrown in the slammer and refuses to take a plea bargain. Instead, she hires a gutsy ACLU lawyer (Tim Blake Nelson) to fight her case, and he tells her he intends to take on the District Attorney. Feisty to a fault, Dee takes him up on the offer. The movie is beautifully shot (it’s worth spending the extra cash to get the Blu-ray version) and features a fine performance by newcomer Beharie. It handles race issues so well, it’s hard to imagine an African-American didn’t direct the film. Alfre Woodard, Xhibit and Michael O’Keefe round out the excellent cast. Among the extras is commentary by Disney, who describes the prison system as the place “where people go to be punished” and not rehabilitated. Can’t wait to see what the talented Disney does next. ***