The world has flipped upside down, and it's a turn of the screw. White Americans have been disempowered and African-American's are the enfranchised. No, this isn't the Twilight Zone. But for white American John Travolta, it seems so.
Travolta plays an honest hard working factory worker and family man, who gets fired from his job when he accidentally sees the wife of a rich black executive getting dressed when he is delivering a package. Travolta returns to the executive's (Harry Belafonte) residence and tries to explain he's lost his livelihood because of the misunderstanding. But Belafonte refuses to see him.
Down trodden, Travolta goes to the unemployment office, but in interviewing for the jobs they offer, Travolta discovers that the employers won't hire him because he's white, or they'll only pay minimum wage. It isn't long before Travolta loses his family, his house, and he's beaten up by LA cops-- a la Rodney King style. In frustration, Travolta kidnaps Belafonte and demands his lost wages.
White Man's Burden is an interesting and sincere picture, because it not only addresses racism, but it addresses classism. We look at the world through another perspective. However, its good intentions are lost in a dead-end screenplay. The first 45 minutes of the picture pays close attention to the reversal of blacks and whites in American society. We see whites living in poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods, blacks in executive jobs and whites are subservient. But then the picture doesn't go anywhere with it. But, having said that, White Man's Burden's topsy-turvy world is fascinating, because Belafonte and Travolta give inspired performances. Travolta is an excellent every man--the kind of working class stiff that audiences can identify with. He's a product of his environment. Belafonte is a good man and a lovable husband, but he's blind to his racism.
The movie's fatal flaw is that after we see this new world order, which is offered with no explanation what-so-ever, the rest of the movie isn't set up to arrive somewhere. Unfortunately its predictable ending arrives in the air.
White Man's Burden is probably worth a look, but only because the baby shouldn't be thrown out with the bath water.