Saturday, February 13, 2021

Review: "Judas and The Black Messiah" is worth the hype

History matters. As our world gets crazier and crazier its become more and more important that we remember that always.

"Judas and The Black Messiah" tells the unbelievable true story Bill O'Neal. Bill was a petty criminal during the early 1960's who got arrested for attempted theft of a car and also impersonating a police officer. While under arrest, he is approached by FBI Agent Roy Mitchell. Mitchell offers to drop all of O'Neal's charges if he goes undercover for the FBI and infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, headed by Fred Hampton. Fred Hampton and Bill O'Neal become very close with one another, even while O'Neal slips intel to the FBI. As O'Neal stays within the Black Panther Party for a long amount of time, being rejected each time he wants to end being an informant, the closer he gets to Hampton.

It may turn some readers off to discuss The Black Panther Party. I'm sure there are some viewers out there who won't agree with the portrayal of the Black Panther Party in this movie. But again, history is history and it matters. Real, actual history matters, no that revisionist crap that gets lauded on the internet now and again. It would probably blow some people's minds to learn that the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party created a free lunch program. Hampton united street gangs and other civil rights groups under a multiracial coalition known as the Rainbow Coalition. And there is more evidence then not that there was an alliance between the FBI, Chicago Police and other government agencies to kill Hampton. This is all history that is readily available to you and the real story of the Black Panther Party has been a real eye-opener when I first started reading about it avidly. 

"Judas and The Black Messiah" works wonders due to its electrifying cast. You got Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton, giving another great performance to add to his already impressive resume. The same can be said about LaKeith Stanfield, who plays Bill O'Neal. You got Jesse Plemons as FBI Agent Roy Mitchell. All three of these men are some of the best young actors working in the business right now and all three of them knock it out of the ballpark. I can't wait to see what comes of these guys' careers, because they are all on a roll right now. I also have to single out Martin Sheen who shows up a few times as J. Edgar Hoover. At first, I only recognized Sheen by his iconic voice. The make-up effects on Sheen to look like Hoover is honestly amazing. Sometimes a little can go a long way. Sometimes, too much looks really bad. But here, the make-up is just right and well done.

This is historical drama done right. At the same time, "Judas and The Black Messiah" is also very much of the moment. At a time when facts get distorted daily, where lies are taken as truths, and when history can just simply be made up to fit someone's narrative and its enough for someone to simply say "I read this somewhere" so suddenly their a historian. A movie like "Judas and The Black Messiah" matters. Believe the hype on this one folks, it's done note perfect.

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