BlackNerdMagic’s review published on Letterboxd:
Searing and bravado historical drama that operates as a thriller and truth telling drama that erases the misconceptions of the Black Panther Party and celebrates a young revolutionary gunned down before he could change the world. Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, two of Hollywood’s best young talents, together in the same feature is a sight to behold and they play their roles to spellbinding proportions. The entire ensemble cast brings the heat no matter the amount of time each person is gracing the screen; Dominique Fishback first impressed me in Project Power and I’m happy to report that she has stepped up her craft tremendously as the wife to Kaluuya’s Fred Hampton. Jesse Plemons remains a steady ace in the hole to place in any narrative.
If the title of the film doesn’t ring any bells, the story carries similarities to the story in the Bible focused on the betrayal of Jesus by his most trusted disciple, Judas. A trusted confidant that served as a aide to the messiah of a land becomes a catalyst to the destruction of said messiah. Fred Hampton was a Black Panther Party Chairman who believed that the system of capitalism and racism would continue to keep America a breeding ground for oppression that tears down people of color and revolutionary groups outside the mainstream society. Hampton was a benevolent spirit that was able to unite people from all different backgrounds in the name of enacting change; just as it has been in history, the powers that be are threatened whenever a savior comes along to shake up the status quo.
Much will be said about William O’Neal, the protagonist we follow throughout the film that is serving as a weapon for the FBI to use in order to tear down the Black Panthers. His ultimate act of betrayal is horrifying and disguising to say the least; Stanfield’s performance does a renowned job humanizing and adding layers to this infamous figure. A troubled soul who is force to do the bidding of law enforcement by tearing down a hero in his community that was a shining light ready to follow in MLK’s footsteps. The labels of “snitch”, “rat”, and “informant” will be attached to his name forever but don’t forget that he is just another black person used by the forces of white supremacy to tear down one of his own.
Shaka King should be proud of himself. Incredible cinema.