John Sayles' masterpiece is one of the great films of American independent cinema. Oscar-nominated for cinematography, the film is staged in the classic western tradition. The story concerns the small mining community of Matewan, West Virginia, and is set during the 20's. When the Stone Mountain Coal Company announces a cut in wages, the miner's response is strike action. A train arrives in town bringing black and Italian workers to replace them but on that same train is Joe Kenehan, a union organiser whose aim is to unite all the diverse groups of workers to stand together. The bosses' next move is to bring in some hired 'muscle' to "keep the peace". As the tension and violence escalates, the stage is set for a final showdown.