Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Movie Review: "Marshall" (2017)

Director: Reginald Hudlin
Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes

The story of NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall, who works with local attorney Sam Friedman to defend a black man who has been accused of raping and trying to kill his white socialite employer.

Thurgood Marshall was an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court. What better way to pay tribute to the incredible works of Mr. Marshall than by focusing on a case where he was primarily relegated to being a background player? "Marshall" is directed by Reginald Hudlin, who is known for directing films like "House Party," "Boomerang," and "The Ladies Man." The film stars Chadwick Boseman as the titular Thurgood Marshall, who as a young lawyer worked for the NAACP arguing civil rights cases all the way to the US Supreme Court. Joining him is Josh Gad as Sam Friedman, who winds up being the reluctant lead counsel in the latest case the NAACP has taken on. The two lawyers are defending a black man named Joseph Spell, played by Sterling K. Brown, who has been accused of raping and trying to murder the wife of his employer Eleanor Strubing, played by Kate Hudson, a wealthy socialite. Of course, Spell says he is innocent, so Marshall and Friedman must establish enough doubt in the case to allow him to go free.

Thurgood Marshall was an important figure in American history. As mentioned above, Marshall was not only the first black Supreme Court justice, but he also argued many crucial civil rights cases, including Murray vs. Pearson, Smith vs. Allwright, Shelley vs. Kraemer, and most notably, Brown vs. Board of Education. So, one has to wonder why those responsible for writing, directing, and producing "Marshall" chose to focus on a case where Thurgood Marshall was relegated to playing second fiddle. The film does, however, paint him as a puppet master pulling the strings of the reluctant and supposedly inexperienced defense attorney Sam Friedman. This is a point that has greatly offended Friedman's living relatives considering he was actually a very seasoned trial lawyer by that time and had been practicing law longer than Marshall himself. Thurgood Marshall deserves to have his story told, and quite frankly, we would have rather seen a movie that covered a greater spectrum of his accomplishments as opposed to focusing on a trial where he was little more than a glorified consultant.

Despite this odd choice, "Marshall" is still a decent, very polished, very pristine biopic that is saved by its excellent performances. Chadwick Boseman has never disappointed us. We have loved him in just about every movie he has been in and he is great once again in this project. Josh Gad also continues to impress us the more we see him act. He does a good job as Sam Friedman, the hesitant and worried insurance lawyer who eventually comes to see the importance of his involvement in the Spell case. Finally, Dan Stevens, who plays the slimy, bigoted district attorney representing Kate Hudson's Mrs. Strubing, is wonderfully reprehensible. This film marks another fine performance from Stevens. Unfortunately, despite the efforts from everyone in front of the camera, "Marshall" is a rather paint-by-numbers courtroom trial drama as we watch the jury hear one side of the story versus the other in a dramatic fashion complete with all the twists and turns you'd expect from a film of this nature. As the trial moves along, more evidence is uncovered. As stories change, we finally get to the verdict about 20 minutes too late. We aren't sure if this paints a wholly realistic picture of Thurgood Marshall or Sam Friedman, and though it is still a somewhat entertaining movie, it does have its massively slow points that drag the entire thing down from time to time. In the end, this may be worth watching for fans of courtroom dramas or of Chadwick Boseman or Josh Gad, but it won't really be a movie we remember in the long run. It is a little too glossy, a little too long, and a little too familiar.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

No comments:

Post a Comment