The 24th tells the true story of the all-Black Twenty-Fourth United States Infantry Regiment and what happened during the Houston Riot of 1917.
The film’s release from Vertical Entertainment comes on the weekend of the Houston Riot’s 103rd anniversary. Like many other events in history, this is one of those historic events that I knew nothing about. Regardless, there’s still a relevance to the events when we look at what’s happening across the United States. There is a cultural conversation taking place and while we cannot change the past, we can only hope to change the future.
If you aren’t familiar with the Houston Riot, allow me to sum it up briefly. There were 156 African-American soldiers that participated in a mutiny. This mutiny also came in response to the awful police brutality in Houston. The two-hour riot would lead to several deaths. It would lead to the largest murder trial in American history. Nineteen soldiers were executed with another forty-one receiving life sentences.
After his parents died, William Boston (Trai Byers) was sent over to Europe for the best education that anyone could ask for. Since that time, however, Boston decides to enlist in the 24th with hopes of going back overseas to fight in World War 1. Alas, it isn’t meant to be. Boston finds himself assigned to guarding Camp Logan’s construction outside of Houston. The racist behavior coming from the Houston law enforcement certainly isn’t surprising. Sadly, this is what went for the law in the early 1900s. Boston does have Col. Norton (Thomas Haden Church) on his side for what it’s worth. Col. Norton may be the one honest white man in this film. If he has any racist behavior, he does not show it in public.
While camped out in the Houston vicinity, Boston–who gets promoted to Corporal–falls for Marie (Aja Naomi King), a preacher’s daughter. Before he gets the chance to propose, he finds himself running to check on Davids. The next thing we know, the racist police also attack Boston. It isn’t pretty and you’ll find yourself screaming at the screen. How anybody can call themselves law enforcement and act so unconscionable is just mind-boggling. The Houston police behavior is outright racist but unfortunately, this was an attitude in the south and in many areas, it remains today. I’m sorry to get political here but when you read the news daily and hear about more Black people getting killed at the hands of police, you can’t stay silent. Nobody should.
Oscar-winning screenwriter Kevin Willmott directs the film from a script co-written with Trai Byers. Their script does not tone down the racism. It can certainly be tough to watch throughout the run time. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have some lighter moments because it does.
The 24th is a relevant film for the 21st century.
DIRECTOR: Kevin Willmott
SCREENWRITERS: Kevin Willmott and Trai Byers
CAST: Trai Byers, Bashir Salahuddin, Aja Naomi King, Mo McRae, Tosin Morohunfola, with Mykelti Williamson and Thomas Haden Church