Review Roundup: Chadwick Boseman & Josh Gad Star in MARSHALL
Long before he sat on the United States Supreme Court or claimed victory in Brown v. Board of Education, Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) was a young rabble-rousing attorney for the NAACP.
The new motion picture, MARSHALL, is the true story of his greatest challenge in those early days - a fight he fought alongside attorney Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), a young lawyer with no experience in criminal law: the case of black chauffeur Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), accused by his white employer, Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson), of sexual assault and attempted murder.
MARSHALL hits theaters this Friday, October 13. Before you go to the theater, let's see what some of the critics have to say about the movie.
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times: "Marshall" also stumbles somewhat with the he-said, she-said wrangling. The filmmakers effortlessly lay out the very real existential dangers threatening Joseph, whose fate rests either with Thurgood or the howling white mob outside. But the overly broad performances, especially in the zippy courtroom scenes, drain the movie of nuance and blunt its realism, and the contrapuntal his-and-her flashbacks add little.
Stephen Whitty, New York Daily News: Boseman is great as Marshall, if a little monotonously confident. There's a good, more complicated part for Kate Hudson, too, as the Greenwich matron charging rape. Hudson shows shadows of sullen disappointment and flashes of real rage, and an emotional range none of her silly rom-coms ever let her. To its credit, the film also makes a few important points. It reminds us that racism wasn't - and isn't - successfully quarantined in the Deep South. It shows how black sexuality has always been a huge and ugly part of white bigotry. And it draws an impressive portrait of Thurgood Marshall as a strong and towering figure. If only it didn't do that by making everyone around him so weak and small."
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: "The ever-impressive Boseman, who's lately been spending most of his time enacting Black Panther for Marvel, delivers a strong and confident reading of Marshall. The man was in his early 30s at the time of this case, quite experienced at handling both the pressure and the prejudice he had to deal with daily and, from the evidence, quite shrewd in maneuvering around it all...Despite its sensationalist aspects, the case doesn't really seem to erupt into the enormous powder keg it might have, so, on its merits, it's doubtful anyone would have detected a film waiting to be made of it were it not for Marshall's involvement. It's interesting enough, but that's not usually sufficient recommendation to get audiences out to a theater."
Peter Debruge, Variety: "Rather than falling into the trap of blindly sanctifying Marshall based on his impressive list of future accomplishments, he treats him as a rich, three-dimensional character, encouraging Boseman to imagine him as Denzel Washington did Easy Rawlins in DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS or the way Spencer Tracy brought depth to Henry Drummond in INHERIT THE WIND. By approaching Marshall as an idealistic young trail lawyer, the film stands on its own as a compelling courtroom drama, complete with surprising revelations - and while we hope things will go his way, this case could just as easily prove THE ONE that motivated his future crusade (much as Finch failed to exonerate Tom Robinson in MOCKINGBIRD."
Richard Brody, The New Yorker: "Reginald Hudlin directs this historical drama, set in 1941, with an apt blend of vigor and empathy...The movie urgently dramatizes the threat of racist violence that poisons personal relationships and judicial proceedings alike."
Jake Coyle, Associated Press: "He's an undeniably empowering and inspirational figure, and MARSHALL is a smooth and straightforward package. That the STAKES for justice are high is never in question, especially once Spell - and the extreme poise of (Sterling K.) Brown - takes the stand. But MARSHALL doesn't go for the kind of gravity echoed, say, in the one-man play THURGOOD, which James Earl Jones performed on the stage and Laurence Fishburne on the screen. There's a light comic interplay between Boseman and Gad. Marshall sorts the case out without cracking a book or breaking a sweat."
Peter Keough, Boston Globe: "In this time of intensifying, acrimonious racial division, maybe what we could all use is an old-fashioned courtroom drama that extols the virtues of justice and equality. Reginald Hudlin's MARSHALL is reminiscent of such classics as TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962) with a touch of the odd-couple detective story in IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967). Based on one of the early cases taken up by future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall when he was working for the NAACP, the film proceeds without much subtlety, though with a filigree of witty dialogue and Chadwick Boseman's panache as the wry, natty young attorney. But not every cinematic argument needs to be subtle when the values defended are so fundamentally American."
Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice: "Hudlin early on frames young Marshall like the future justice is posing for a statue of himself. That shot, in the cell of the accused, is like the movie itself: a little cheesy, too obviously a moment staged on a set for a movie, yet also welcome, pleasurable, even heartening. Like HIDDEN FIGURES, this is a feel-good vision of the past, where racism is exposed and trounce-able rather than soul-deep and intractable, where the exposure of injustice can always stir the best out of white people with power. But even in this glossy pulp fictionalization, MARSHALL is filled above all else with truths that still demand telling. Bring on the next installment, Marshall Meets the Topeka School Board."
Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com: "But the movie's missteps and over-reaches are all of a piece. The farther away from the courtroom we get, the more MARSHALL starts to feel like a detective thriller with subtle Western movie accents: the terse, one-word title positions its hero as a tough, smart sheriff trying to clean up a corrupt town. There's an almost B-movie quality to certain parts-a touch of SHAFT-and I mean that as praise. What I like most about Marshall the man and MARSHALL the film are their laid back confidence. It carries itself as if we've already seen a lot of projects like this one-as if there's a new funny, exciting period piece about a brilliant, two-fisted black lawyer in theaters every week, and this is just the latest. I hope the filmmakers are already working on "Marshall Returns."
Photo Credit: MARSHALL Official Facebook Page