The first masterpiece of 2021 fights and betrays the power!
For the first time since that iconic “Get Out! Get Out” scene in “Get Out,” Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield are both back together with another masterpiece. This one is called “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and it’s an explosively entertaining biopic about a famous revolutionary socialist and his betrayal by an FBI informant. This revolutionary socialist was the Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party named Fred Hampton, and both he and activist Mark Clark were murdered during a police raid in 1969. The former was 21 and the latter was 22.
The people behind “Judas and the Black Messiah” consist of writer/director Shaka King, whose credits include small Indies like “Mulignans” and “Newleyweeds;” producer Ryan Coogler, who keeps topping himself with one classic after another; co-writers Will Berson-making his film debut-and the Lucas Brothers (Kenny and Keith). All these talents manage to live up to Spike Lee’s poetic and outspoken filmmaking standards, as well as reflecting on the historic murders of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, and other recent murders. History keeps repeating itself in regards to racism, viruses, and sexism, and we need inspiring movies to help us express our hatred towards them.
In “Judas and the Black Messiah,” we meet William O’Neil (Stanfield), a professional car thief, who poses as an FBI agent in order to report “stolen vehicles,” so he can steal them. He says the fake badge is more of a weapon than a gun. One night, he gets popped by FBI agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons), who offers him a deal. He can either serve six years for both grand theft auto and impersonating an agent, or become an informant for them. His task is to get dirt on Hampton (Kaluuya), so the law can wipe him out.
Hampton doesn’t know about William’s car-stealing methods, except for a few members of the party. One of them tried to stab him during his last heist. And that’s only half his worries, because a previous informant got tortured and killed on the job. He tries to back out, but Mitchell tells him this is basically how he’s serving his 6-year sentence. All he has to do to survive is earn Hampton’s trust, especially after he gets released from prison.
The movie’s all-star supporting cast includes Dominique Fishback committing into the role of Hampton’s pregnant girlfriend, Darrell Britt-Gibson as Bobby Rush, the cofounder of the Black Panther Party, Lil Rel Howery (also from “Get Out” as you all know) having a brave cameo as a pimp, Jermaine Fowler as Mark Clark, Algee Smith and Ashton Sanders as Black Panther members, and Martin Sheen delivering some bold dialogue as the one and only J. Edgar Hoover.
I love how Kaluuya’s American accent makes him sound like a young Blair Underwood, and how he puts all his life and passion inside Fred Hampton. And Stanfield is also electrifying when he eases into the real-life William O’Neal and his struggle for survival as an informant. They were both excellent in “Get Out,” and they expand their horizons in “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
This biopic represents the past with dangerous historical reenactments, powerful words, riveting gun fights, and choices. Seeing all this reminded me of how profound “Detroit” and “BlacKkKlansman” were, because they all acknowledge how history repeats itself, and their filmmakers express their hatred against racism on film. It may have been on the National Board of Review Awards’ Top 10 Movies of 2020, but I still think it’s one of 2021’s best films.
In Theaters and on HBO Max Next Friday