I’m a fan of courtroom dramas – especially tense dramas. I’m also a huge fan of biopics and superhero movies. So of course, “Marshall” was right up my ally delivering all three genres for the price of one. In fact, Chadwick Boseman has become a biopic icon portraying Soul Brother #1 James Brown, baseball legend Jackie Robinson and now legendary Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall.
In Boseman’s superhero column, check the box: Marvel’s Black Panther, and check the box: Justice Thurgood Marshall – a superhero of the Civil Rights Movement. Marshall accomplished so much during his tenure of daring do as the NAACP chief counsel lawyer (Brown v. Board of Education) and as a Supreme Court justice, director Reginald Hudlin wisely focused on one aspect of Marshall’s career – his defense of a young black chauffeur (Sterling K. Brown) who is accused of attempted murder and rape of his rich employer’s wife (Kate Hudson).
A dapper Boseman effortlessly illustrates young Thurgood Marshall’s flashes of brilliance, as the NAACP’s hired gun defending black clients railroaded by white courts. Marshall’s mettle is tested in a right-wing Connecticut court, where he’s barred from addressing the legal proceedings, because he’s not on the Connecticut bar. So Marshall enlists the help of a reluctant young Jewish lawyer Samuel Friedman (Josh Gad) to help mount a defense, despite Bridgeport’s anti-Semitism climate and a racist judge (James Cromwell) and prosecutors.
Hudlin does an excellent job of directing traffic, so that story doesn’t become gridlocked and convoluted. There are a couple of diversions, however, involving Marshall and his wife trying to have a baby, and his friendship with noted writer/activist Langston Hughes. But these detours are on screen for a cup of coffee, and offer little or nothing to invest the audience.
Gad offers a thoughtful performance as Samuel Friedman, and has as much screen time as Boseman. He’ll probably be mentioned at the Oscar time, but it’s clearly Boseman who drives, steers and carries the picture. Hopefully, he’ll be an Oscar contender.
“Marshall” offers an insightful view of a man in the making. It’s not a great film, but it’s a good film. “Marshall” is another demonstration of Boseman’s charismatic acting range, whether he’s portraying a soul singer, baseball player, lawyer or superhero. You become totally invested in the characters Boseman portrays. FYI: The audience at the screening I attended stood up and cheered at the end of the picture. I’m just saying…
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