In 1964 and 1965, Lyndon Baines Johnson signed important legislation abolishing segregation. That doesn't mean that Southern communities were willing to let go of their Jim Crow laws, and civil rights demonstrators knew this for a fact. But not everyone was willing to lay down dying and begging for mercy they never would've had from white supremacists in the fight for equality. Knowing this, some black men were willing to arm themselves and retaliate against Klan violence, and this movie is about one such group of black war veterans who choose to do so.
Forrest Whittaker plays Marcus Clay, a middle-aged black man working at a paper mill in Bogalusa, Louisiana. For some reason, most of the white folks think they can rely on him to keep other African-Americans from seeking equality, whether it involved making sure other black co-workers don't seek a promotion, or keeping his determined teenage daughter from join the CORE voting drive. When she's attacked by the police during a civil rights march, he finally decides to take action against them, and when he takes her home to reprimand her, she makes him realize that in the eyes of whitey, he's no better than any other person of color. That's when he decides he's going to team up with his neighbors, congregation, and fellow employees and form their own anti-KKK militia.
Unlike the Black Panthers who's membership consisted of a mix of young atheists, Marxists, and Muslims in paramilitary uniforms, the Deacons were middle-aged and old men who were as patriotic as any other American, and were just tired of being punished for seeking their fair share in life. They're also not intimidated by the fact that the boss of the mill is also an Exhalted Cyclops of the local KKK chapter, and neither is the C.E.O., who demands that they give-in to demonstrators and end their discriminatory hiring practices. Throughout the movie the local civil rights organizers played by Jonathan Silverman & Adam Weiner make it clear they want nothing to do with the Deacons. After all, they're about non-violence, and the Deacons are about violent retaliation. Eventually, they realize they may need them no matter how much they oppose their principles. The movie switches from color to black and white, as you'd expect, and occasionally uses footage from more famous civil rights marches like Birmingham and Selma, Alabama, but this can be forgiven. There are times you'll swear it's about to go into a heroic martyrdom cliché, but it doesn't. One foreman/Klansman sniper keeps trying to get a shot at Marcus, but loses the chance to do so. Even the showdown at the end doesn't result in the death of any black or white men. And I wouldn't DARE reveal anything else about the ending. Rent this movie, buy this movie, or demand that your local video store make multiple copies available, because this is much too good for anybody to ignore.