By Jim Tortolano
Biographical movies that try to track a famous person over too long a stretch of life run the risk of robbing the story of the drama of the unexpected.
“Marshall,” a film about legendary civil rights lawyer and U.S. Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall avoids that trap by focusing on one of his lesser-known court cases, a trial which reveals a side of a career that does not drape him in judicial robes.
Chadwick Boseman, who has earlier portrayed Jackie Robinson and James Brown, stars in the leading role and deftly shows Marshall as a gutsy, never-intimidated young litigator. He’s the point man of the legal efforts of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in cases when black people are unjustly accused of a crime.
In fact, he’s the only lawyer the NAACP has in this 1941 case. When he arrives in Connecticut to defend a chauffeur (Sterling Brown) accused of raping his employer (Kate Hudson), he finds that he’s not allowed to speak in court.
He therefore has to coach local attorney Samuel Friedman (Josh Gad), who brings with him the added burden of anti-Semitism. Before stern Judge Foster (James Cromwell), the unlikely pair originally make little progress in their defense, but a bit of non-legal advice gives them a clue to unlock this somewhat puzzling tangle of accusations, evidence and prejudice.
Much of the credit for this entertaining and inspiring blend of crime story, history and biography goes to the deft direction of Reginald Hudlin and the screenplay by writers Jacob Koskoff and Michael Koskoff.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is rightly known as the most important figure in the civil rights movement, but “Marshall” shows a bit of why its subject belongs in the equality pantheon as well.
“Marshall” is rated PG-13 for mature content, sexuality, violence and profanity.
Categories: Arts & Leisure