Screen Savor: Marshall law

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Courtesy photo.

You have to give Reginald Hudlin, director of "Marshall" (Open Road), credit. The man responsible for such non-classics as House Party (starring Kid’n Play), Boomerang (starring Eddie Murphy) and The Ladies Man (starring Tim Meadows, based on his SNL character), wanted to make a different kind of movie than people were used to seeing from him.

Hudlin chose a serious subject matter; Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. He wisely focused on a pivotal moment in Marshall’s legal career; a 1941 case when NAACP lawyer Marshall teamed up with another lawyer to save the life and reputation of a black man wrongly accused of rape and attempted murder. So then why does Marshall feel somewhat inconsequential?

As chief legal counsel for the NAACP in the early 1940s, Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) was a busy man. When the movie opens, he’s being harassed and chased out of town by Oklahoma rednecks after winning a case. Without nary a moment to rest, Marshall heads home to New York and is immediately sent to Bridgeport, Connecticut to meet with Joseph (Sterling K. Brown), who is in jail and awaiting trial, after supposedly sexually assaulting his upper-crust employer Eleanor (Kate Hudson).

At the suggestion of another NAACP lawyer, Marshall teams up with Bridgeport insurance lawyer Sam Friedman (a scene-stealing Josh Gad). Friedman is out of his element, and it doesn’t help that Judge Foster (James Cromwell) and Eleanor’s lawyer Willis (the ubiquitous Dan Stevens), aren’t just racists, but anti-Semites as well. Regardless, Marshall and Friedman make a dynamic team

To be fair, the timing of Marshall couldn’t be better, given the current state of things under the Trump regime. Hudlin also makes a point of including a scene in a Harlem nightclub in which Marshall and his wife Buster (Keesha Sharp) are out on the town with his former classmate, gay writer Langston Hughes (out actor Jussie Smollett). Nevertheless, Marshall simply lacks the weight that a subject such as Marshall deserves. Grade: B-


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