Judas and the Black Messiah; Grade: B
Judas and the Black Messiah tells a story about a car thief named Bill (LaKeith Stanfield) whom got caught stealing a car and impersonating a federal agent. Roy (Jesse Plemons) gives Bill an estimated jail sentence up to five years, however Roy gives Bill the option to let him go free of charges... As long as Bill is willing to work with the FBI, to go under cover and give them information from the Black Panther Party. The FBI feels party leader Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) is planning attacks on the country, making them the biggest threat in the country. When in reality Hampton is just creating better opportunities for African Americans and minorities, providing food, and even planning a medical center. Witness an under cover crime story, that gets messy real quick.
The Cinematography was solid, t'was a cool looking film, I especially liked when the film switched over the documentary style when Bill was getting interviewed, t'was pretty cool. The Score was solid as well, the up tempo moments were pretty fun followed by some classical jazz as well. The cast all in all was pretty damn good. LaKeith Stanfield playing Bill had a pretty good performance as always, given the real person behind this character at the end, LaKeith was perhaps a perfect casting choice for this role. Honestly Bill is in a Lose-Lose situation: He either can go to jail for five years or betray a local party that though expresses verbal violence, however still wants to do the right things for those less fortunate around their communities. Bill lacks pride as instead of doing the time, he chooses to basically put harms way for many individuals as though you understand why he chose a cowardly move due to his circumstances, however you don't feel sympathetic for this character at all as he makes you feel embarrassed.
Fred Hampton played by Daniel Kaluuya t'was excellent in this performance, as once again Kaluuya continues to impress audiences with his great range in acting, delivering in crucial emotional moments of sadness, anger, and frustration. I believe people will look back on this performance, as Kaluuya does deliver some future iconic lines and sequences, including of course "I AM, A REVOLUTIONARY!" I do believe Kaluuya is a show win to win Best Supporting Actor this year during awards season. The only issue with Fred Hampton I have is of course poor choice in his words, as to expressing powerful messages he wants to deliver. Bill in the third act called Hampton out, saying he wants cops all dead, when Hampton differ as he clarified his message against cops or anybody, as he had no intentions in wanting violence or death to occur... Even though in his speeches he sometimes glorified violence against cops. No way defending the cops by any means nor siding with Hampton on violence and hatred, as violence and hatred leads to absolutely nothing in return... However I agree with Bill here, as you question if you don't mean any harm on anybody, then why are you glorifying it in your speeches?! Words are extremely powerful and can be taken out of context, if not handled correctly as those will be motivated to the wrong things. That's really the only issue I had with Hampton, other than that he was a likable character to follow, as everything the FBI assumed from him and his party was wrong. Hampton wanted to do great things for his own communities, to get them out of poverty and crime, as he wanted them to live a better life and be properly taken care of. Very emotional guy that was surely a great public speaker when given a chance to speak for his people.
Jesse Plemons playing Roy played a pretty good performance. Honestly with Roy it's hard to get a fair read on him. One moment he differs with his fellow commander in chief on some situations and feels awkward when given a random question, yet he still tends to take down Hampton and the party in the most diabolical way possible... He's quite a confusing character. Roy does a great job in manipulating Bill in continuing on the mission at hand with his settle threats, while putting ideas in his head these people were up to no good, when in reality he's been telling him lies including a vile incident that never happened.
One other flaw to point out with Judas and the Black Messiah is the pacing, this film felt slow to me, as it could surely pick up the pace or some sequences didn't even needed to be in there. Quick note to those in the line of work on theatrical releases: What inspired you to release this on Valentines Weekend?! This is the LAST movie I would release following a holiday, in which love and happiness is in the air, go pick out some chick flick or some feel good movie and release that, no one is going to spend a romantic evening at the cinema watching a dark crime story... Whatever happened to common sense?!
Judas and the Black Messiah delivered on expectations, as this was a well put together crime story. Intriguing from start to finish, as in some moments it has you on the edge of your seat as you don't know what is bound to come. It excels on the crime/under cover aspect, while also delivering on the dramatic aspect as well. I did felt I learned a fair amount of information and a better understanding as well. The finale was troublesome to endure, as you can't understand how they got full authority to do such a horrific act like this?! It's got a lot of things to admire and appreciate.
Overall, Judas and the Black Messiah t'was a solid film. I recommend checking this one out. -Mitch Smietana