Monday, February 15, 2021
MOVIE REVIEW: JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
Now playing at Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18 and Roadhouse Cinemas (also streaming on HBO MAX)
Director and co-screenwriter Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah features two great actors, Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, totally on fire.
Fred Hampton (Kaluuya), chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, has become the focus of an FBI investigation led by J. Edgar Hoover (a heavily made-up Martin Sheen). Bill O’Neal (Stanfield), after getting himself into some trouble, is enlisted by the FBI inform on Hampton and the Panthers.
From powerful speeches to the more intimate moments, Kaluuya offers up some of his best work since Get Out (in which he also costarred with Stanfield). King and Stanfield make the choice of not portraying O’Neal as a complete snake, but as a messed-up guy who got his wires crossed with tragic consequences.
Jesse Plemons is typically strong as FBI Agent Roy Mitchell, the man who enlisted O’Neal and started him on the infiltration journey that led to him being a leader in Panther security. Mitchell was a catalyst in the eventual death of Hampton, as well as O’Neal, who died of an apparent suicide years later.
This is one of 2020’s better looking films (Messiah actually qualifies as a 2020 release), a year that gave us two film portrayals of Hampton (he’s also featured in the far less effective The Trial of the Chicago 7). King’s film gives his history the screen time it deserves.