This comedy crime caper is set on an exclusive island. Two dim locals display their racism when they spot a black man moving into his own house and call the police, assuming he is a burglar. The backwoods police manage to escalate the situation and the corrupt sheriff decides to try and frame a drifter for the whole sorry affair. Amos & Andrew features an excellent cast and a comical premise.
The situation is pure farce and the press are quick to respond to the police call. One of the bumbling cops (Dourif) sets off the car alarm and successful playwright and activist Andrew (Jackson) comes out to turn off the alarm. The cops open fire before discovering that he owns the house and is alone inside. The sheriff somehow hatches a scheme to use the two-bit hood called Amos (Cage) in his jail as a scapegoat and convinces him to enter the house with a shotgun. When the national press turn up he is forced to hang Amos out to dry and pins the whole thing on him.
This 1993 release is something of a curiosity because it features an amazing cast including Samuel L. Jackson as Andrew Sterling, Nicolas Cage as Amos Odell and a vast array of recognisable supporting actors including Brad Dourif, Dabney Coleman, Michael Lerner, Chelcie Ross and Margaret Colin.
The premise seems tailor made for Jackson as the angry black man suffering injustice at the hands of a bunch of ignorant racists but he never quite reaches the level of furious ranting you’d like to see. Cage has an easy time as the quirky failed criminal and Coleman gives a decent performance as the loathsome sheriff. There is some chemistry between the two male leads and they strike up an uneasy friendship bonded by their mutual disdain for the sheriff who seems intent on persecuting both of them.
There is quite a bit of action as Amos escapes the clutches of the sheriff with help from Andrew and they end up grabbing more hostages. The cops are so inept that they are never really at risk and the gentle comedy is gently amusing. The film shies away from making any real statement about racism and prefers to stay in farcical comedy territory. It could have done with being a bit riskier because the whole thing feels very tame and the gentle comic approach to the subject matter feels a bit wrong.
It was written and directed by E. Max Frye and this is the only film he ever directed. The cast went on to much bigger and better things and this is entertaining in the main because of the actors. It is tough to escape the feeling that there is a missed opportunity in here and the film never quite met my expectations. Amos & Andrew is a perfectly entertaining lightweight comedy movie but it could have been more.