From the '30s through the '60s, a group of 400 black men in Alabama were left untreated for syphilis for the purpose of study—even after the discovery of penicillin's usefulness, and despite the fact that they believed they were receiving treatment. This HBO film dramatizes the atrocity from the point of view of the title character (Alfre Woodard), a nurse who was, against her better judgment, complicit with the experiment—at first because of the promise that it would be brief and disprove theories of racial inequality, then later out of attachment to her patients. As anyone who has ever seen her in anything should suspect, when Woodard is given a lead role this complex, she's terrific, proving once again to be one of the most underused actresses working today. Unfortunately, the movie, despite strong performances from Laurence Fishburne and Joe Morton, is a bit too transparent and predictable to do its actors justice. As a history lesson and cautionary tale about bigotry and the abuse of power, Miss Evers Boys is first-rate and informative. As a film, it's only so-so.

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