Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★★

2021 Ranking 

On rewatch, the previous reservations and what I think works best about the film, which I relayed in my previous review, remain pretty much the same, though I suppose I can go into more detail about why.

On the note of reservations, the FBI scenes still feel completely extraneous, and frankly could've been disposed of and left them as more of an unseen forceful entity represented solely by Plemons' agent (and they really didn't need to humanise him - anyone working on this endeavour targeting Hampton was a piece of trash). In turn the other Panthers feel underdeveloped, and unfortunately this time around I felt the writing behind William O'Neal definitely struggled to really create an arc for him. I don't think this harms the film that much though because Stanfield is brilliant in every scene he's in, and to the film's credit it does give him some fantastic scenes like when he's being held at gunpoint under suspicion of his FBI acquired car. I don't think, on rewatch, that the film makes O'Neal out to be too sympathetic, but I did feel the third act showed the weakness of the film of not building up enough to the emotional toll of that betrayal it wishes to show. So as great as the performance is, one wonders whether the film might've been better off making O'Neal just more of a supporting character on the sidelines.

That being said, a big reason for that is every scene with Fred Hampton is amazing, and while I've mentioned before that there's many directions and so many aspects of his activism that could be covered here (incredible individual) and I do think a whole film could've been dedicated to honing in solely on him, what we do get here is masterful in every scene he's in and Daniel Kaluuya is amazing every step of the way in both the public and private shades of Hampton. So even though my reservations stayed all the stronger, this is a very secure 4 star film for me just for every Fred Hampton scene. I think I'm happy with that assessment.

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