Stur’s review published on Letterboxd:
Judas and the Black Messiah is a film about the informant William 'Bill' O'Neal's infiltration into the Chicago chapter of The Black Panther Party led by Chairman Fred Hampton. It’s directed by relative newcomer Shaka King who actually did a very good job, and written by the Lucas Brothers (the twins from 22 Jump Street lmao). It was in my opinion a really good film, and a pretty timely one.
It doesn’t actually delve too deep into The Black Panther Party or Hampton’s ideas but it still brings up not only their focus on race, but also the class warfare they were engaged in. Maybe it should’ve gone further but I was still a bit surprised that such a major film studio agreed to let those parts be in. Though you could say that the film is more of an exploration of the crimes of the FBI and the police than who Hampton truly was. J. Edgar Hoover is accurately portrayed like the bigoted lunatic he was and the FBI and its COINTELPRO program is far from portrayed in a positive light.
One thing I’m not sure I liked is that the film undersold how truly young they were. O'Neal was literally 17 when Roy Mitchell sent him into the BPP. Hampton was 21 when he was assassinated by the FBI. The actors looked much older than that. My biggest gripe with the film was probably that the characters felt quite underdeveloped, and especially O'Neal. I wanted to know more of him as a person and his internal struggles (if he had any).
I realize that it’s a bit tone deaf praising a monolithic corporation like Warner Brothers for a film about a Marxist revolutionary, but I do feel like out of the large film studios they take the biggest "risks" and make the most interesting films.
Anyways, the film was great and definitely deserves some awards glory. My rating may even go up on a rewatch.