Drew Reuschlein’s review published on Letterboxd:
“a badge is scarier than a gun.”
a whole lot to admire here. in only his second feature length film, shaka king accomplishes what many established filmmakers have yet to, crafting an explosive biopic out of the blood, sweat and tears of one of the most blatant acts of injustice in american history.
organized chaos is a hard balance to strike, but judas and the black messiah captures it perfectly, showcasing each event from a myriad of different angles, pitting them against each other in rapid succession and ultimately taking full advantage of the camera’s scope. the screenplay cuts like poetry, similar to hampton’s own voice, and daniel kaluuya gives a remarkable powerhouse performance. every role is perfectly cast if i’m being honest.
the conclusion of the film is especially powerful because of the way it offers no parting grace. had it tied up the loose ends of hampton’s legacy, the film would have sent the wrong message about history and there would have been a chance of us watching this and never thinking about it again. instead it sears the horror of hampton’s assassination into our brain by saving it for the final scene of the film, then returning back to actual interview footage to remind us that this is about as far from a fictional story as one could possibly get. it’s etched into the history of our nation permanently.