"Belizaire the Cajun" is deep in the terrain of bayou country. It's as atmospheric as a swamp--and often just as murky.
But Armand Assante's performance as the title character, a wry healer with a talent for leading his fellow Cajuns, lifts the movie above what it might have been. His layered portrayal holds you, even when the plot bogs down.
Writer-director Glen Pitre, a Harvard graduate who grew up in Cajun Louisiana, puts us in the middle of a fight between Cajun settlers and hot-headed vigilantes in the late 1850s. Xenophobia turns to violence, and Assante's Belizaire becomes the unlikely hero of the Cajun resistance.
Belizaire has his own little skirmishes with romance; he loves the good-looking, flirty wife of a powerful plantation owner (Will Patton). It spells trouble for everybody.