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Independent filmmaker John Sayles creates one of his more artistic works with this period feature about a volatile 1920s labor dispute in the town of Matewan, West Virginia. Matewan is a coal town where the local miners' lives are controlled by the powerful Stone Mountain Coal Company. The company practically owns the town, reducing workers' wages while raising prices at the company-owned supply and grocery. The citizens' land and homes are not their own, and the future seems dim. When the coal company brings immigrants and minorities to Matewan as cheaper labor, union organizer… More
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"In the rich umbers of Haskell Wexler's cinematography, Matewan does look great."
‑ Richard Corliss, TIME Magazine
"Sayles must have meant his movie to stir and provoke, but the self-contained look of it yields something else -- a sense of quaintness, of harmless nostalgia."
‑ Dave Kehr, Chicago Tribune
"The film is beautifully shot (by veteran cinematographer Haskell Wexler) and works not just as a tense drama, but also as a fascinating recreation of the shifting politics of the the 1920s, where workers' rights blurred with socialism."
‑ , Film4
"Cinematographer Haskel Wexler contributes greatly to the look and feel of a truly special cinematic achievement."
‑ Cole Smithey,
"Superb drama by John Sayles; Chris Cooper is brilliant."
‑ Lori Hoffman, Atlantic City Weekly
"If Sayles's bite were as lethal as his bark, he might have given this a harder edge and a stronger conclusion. But the performances are uniformly fine."
‑ Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
"When this movie stumbles, it stumbles honestly and sympathetically, but, when it succeeds, it makes history sing."
‑ Michael Wilmington, Los Angeles Times
"This thoughtful film is real in every respect, right down to the plaintive sound of a country woman`s ballad."
‑ Candice Russell, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"For all of the binary simplicity of the film's moral structure, the question of violence, its utility or even necessity, is the great ambiguity at the film's center."
‑ Leo Goldsmith, Not Coming to a Theater Near You
"With Oscar winner Haskell Wexler acting as cinematographer, Matewan is beautifully shot, and there is not a weak performance in the film."
‑ , TV Guide's Movie Guide
"In its grave clarity, it's as pure and plaintive as a mountain ballad."
‑ Jay Carr, Boston Globe
"The movie works the way Westerns have always worked: In clear, simple terms and with straightforward dramatic devices."
‑ Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel
"John Sayles' period piece is an ambitious drama of union making and union breaking in the 1920a"
‑ Emanuel Levy, EmanuelLevy.Com
"An old-fashioned movie that will make the hearts of all idealists truly sing."
‑ Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice
"Fascinating masterpiece from Sayles"
‑ Jon Niccum, Lawrence Journal-World
More reviews for Matewan on Rotten Tomatoes