“Kings of the Evening” is a warm, beguiling picture boasting an array of splendid portrayals. Set in a small racist Southern town, in which the Great Depression only worsens things for poor blacks, an aura of uplift emerges as a collective response to these dire conditions gradually grows. Director Andrew P. Jones co-wrote the screenplay with his father, Robert Page Jones, who drew upon his youth during the Great Depression.
Fresh off two years on a chain gang — for having stolen a pair of tires so worn as to be worthless, Homer Hobbs ( Tyson Beckford) takes a room in a boarding house run with a firm hand by Gracie ( Lynn Whitfield), a weary but stunning middle-age woman who’s had some hard knocks. Shy, guilt-ridden and shabbily dressed, Homer has not begun to discover himself but is lucky to land a job at a cement factory. Sweet-natured Clarence ( Glynn Turman), barely surviving on slow-to-arrive government checks, feels marginalized to barely existing. A man confident he always has an angle, Benny (Reginald T. Dorsey) is a sharp dresser but is also jobless. Pretty, vivacious Lucy (Linara Washington) works long hours as a sweatshop seamstress and dreams of having enough money to open a dress shop. An incident from her past, however, endangers not only her but also her fellow boarders and Gracie.
“Kings of the Evening.” MPAA rating: PG for thematic elements, language throughout, some violence and smoking. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. At Mann Plant 16, Van Nuys; AMC Pine Square 16, Long Beach; Regency’s South Coast Village 3, Santa Ana.