Tag Archives: Chadwick Boseman

Upstairs, Downstairs

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

by George Wolf

In 1927 Chicago, four musicians – three vets and a brash youngster – gather in the basement of a downtown recording studio. They tune up and rib each other, waiting for the star vocalist to arrive.

That would be one Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, legendary “Mother of the Blues” and one of the first blues singers to make records. And in the late 1920s, those records sold, which meant Ma didn’t waste her time in studio basements.

That spatial divide becomes the metaphorical anchor in director George C. Wolfe and screenwriter Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s adaptation of August Wilson’s Tony Award-winning play. And thanks to the blistering adversarial performances by Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis, the film has a show-stopping pillar on each floor.

Boseman is electric as Levee, the ambitious trumpet player who’s not only ready to give Ma’s tunes some new swing, but also to break away and record some of his own compositions.

Ma ain’t having any of that, or anything else that doesn’t smell the least bit right to Ma. And Davis, surprising no one, effortlessly embodies the blues legend with a smoldering, defiant ferocity.

Early on, the rehearsal conversations still carry the aura of the stage, but this is Wolfe reinforcing the different worlds co-existing here, a difference that will be pivotal as events escalate.

Wilson’s source work is another compelling example of his ability to explore the Black experience in America through the piercing intimacy of his characters. Ma’s records are selling, which gives her leverage over the white record producers. She exploits that leverage at every turn, but it only takes one cold, world-weary stare from the transcendent Davis to remind you how little illusions Ma has about any of it.

Boseman’s work will undoubtedly earn an Oscar nomination, which will be nothing but well-deserved. Labeling Boseman’s final performance as his finest may smack of sentimentality – at least until you experience it. Then you realize how gracefully Boseman claims this story for Levee, and for the countless real life souls he represents.

It is Levee’s arc that carries this film’s very soul, and Boseman’s chemistry with the stellar ensemble of Glynn Turman, Coleman Domingo and Michael Potts is a thing of beauty. As Levee moves from the cocky enthusiasm of the gifted to the painful cry of the oppressed, Boseman’s bittersweet goodbye becomes doubly heartbreaking.

This is an elegant, artful salute to great art, and a sobering reminder of a shameful legacy marked by exploitation and appropriation. And it is thanks to a collection of great artists that Ma Rainey comes to the screen with all of its joy and pain intact.

Mercy, Mercy Me

Da 5 Bloods

by Hope Madden

Leave it to Spike Lee to follow up the socially searing masterwork in direction BlackKklansman with something bigger, badder and even more immediately relevant.

Da 5 Bloods follows four Vietnam Vets (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis) back to the jungle where they left so much. They left a lot more than most, actually, including a beloved brother and a lot of gold.

Chadwick Boseman haunts the frames and the buddies as Stormin’ Norm, the young platoon leader and inspiration that didn’t make it home. If he represents past tragedies, Jonathan Majors represents the way those pains echo into today.

A heist movie on the surface, Da 5 Bloods is clearly about a great deal more than making it rich. Lee has a lot to say about how those in power tell us what we want to hear so we will do what they want us to do.

As is always the case with Lee’s films, even the most overtly political, deeply felt performances give the message meaning. The entire cast is excellent, but Delroy Lindo is transcendent.

Lindo’s never given a bad performance in his 45 years on screen. As commanding a presence as ever at 68 playing Paul, Lindo again blends vulnerability into every action, whether funny, menacing or melancholy. His MAGA hat-wearing, self-loathing, dangerously conflicted character gives Lee’s themes a pulse. This may finally be the performance to get Lindo the Oscar he’s deserved for ages.

Staggeringly equal to the effort is Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco) as Paul’s son David. His performance illustrates a resilience as well as a tenderness that is utterly heartbreaking.

Even so, here Lee avoids the sentimentality that undermined his 2008 war film Miracle at St. Anna. In its place is a clear-eyed look at the many, insidious effects of not just war but systemic oppression.

It should surprise no one that Lee’s latest happens to hit the exact nerve that throbs so loudly and painfully right now, given that he’s been telling this exact story in minor variations for 30+ years.

Blue Wave

21 Bridges

by George Wolf

Okay, huddle up.

Sometimes, your team comes in the underdog. They run the same old plays we’ve seen so many times, it’s not hard to figure out the game plan. But stack that team with enough talent, and it just might succeed anyway.

Hut 21, hut 21…Bridges!

That’s a cliched analogy, perfect for a cliched film. 21 Bridges lives in a familiar world of drug deals gone bad, hero cops who might be crooked, damaged cops who might be heroes, ticking clocks and killers on the run.

Chadwick Boseman stars as Andre Davis, a NYC detective with “cop in his DNA” since his father was gunned down on duty years ago. Andre has a reputation for being quick with the trigger, which is why Captain McKenna (J.K. Simmons) is happy to see him at a bloody Brooklyn crime scene.

Eight of McKenna’s cops are dead, after surprising two drug runners (Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch) during a botched cocaine robbery. McKenna is confident Andre will enforce their right to remain dead, but the Mayor’s (“he eats pizza with a fork!” – nice) flunkies make it clear hizzoner wants the perps alive for a campaign-friendly show trial.

But first, they have to find the two cop killers. Forced to accept help from narcotics officer Frankie (“fight me or use me”) Burns (Sienna Miller), Andre is granted a five hour window to shut down every possible avenue out of Manhattan, flood the island with blue, and get his men.

Director Brian Kirk, a TV vet helming his second feature, has clearly seen a crime thriller or two. The aerial shots of the city and shaky cam pursuits are standard moves, but Kirk manages to add his own layers of grit and intensity without ever letting the pace bog down.

One half of the writing team, Matthew Michael Carnahan, has some impressive credits, and about half the time, it shows. But even when the dialogue reeks of recycled cop drama, the talent of this cast manages to put a shine on it.

Simmons adds his usual mastery to a role that could have easily been one-note, and Miller again proves how good she is at morphing into completely different looks and personalities.

But this is Boseman’s film to carry, a nice break from his run of biopics and superheroics. The film’s success at exploring the paradoxes of a life in law enforcement is due mainly to Boseman. He finds a mix of outrage and conscience for Andre that feels true, often when the story around him doesn’t quite keep up.

There’s not much freshness to be found in 21 Bridges, just the visceral satisfaction and forgettable fun of talent winning out.

We Won’t Tell You Who Dies

Avengers: Infinity War

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Let’s say you recently penned Captain America: Civil War, an exceedingly successful comic book franchise effort weighed down by the mushrooming of heroes. So. Many. Heroes.

And let’s say it went so well that you are now tasked with the new Avengers movie—the film that takes very nearly every hero from your last effort and tacks on, say, 7 or 8 more. You would almost have to immediately think about thinning the herd, right?

Yes.

Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (who’ve penned all three Captain America films) weave a Marvel Universe-spanning tale that asks whether or not things would work out better if we had about half as many people to deal with. That seems like writerly self-reflection right there.

Thanos (Josh Brolin, who villains it up for Deadpool 2 next) believes in balance. He’s been collecting Infinity Stones across all the different Marvel movies so he can create this Justice Friends adventure and rid the universe of half its inhabitants.

Wait, Thanos is a Guardians of the Galaxy villain, right? Does that mean Starlord’s entire rag-tag crew will join the Avengers (and Dr. Strange and Black Panther and Spiderman and on and on)? So, Chris Pratt, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth?

Correct.

All we need to defeat Thanos is Chris Pine. No way six Infinity Stones can outshine the wattage of all the Chrisses!

The screenplay offers smart comic moments that suit individual characters (Drax! Teenaged Groot!) and never undermine the drama, of which there is plenty. And balance is clearly on the minds of the writers as well as directors Anthony and Joe Russo (who helmed the last two Captain American films and love Cleveland). The storyline divides up nicely to allow the plethora of personalities to shine, each in their own way.

Though the film runs a full 2 ½ hours with the end-of-credits stinger, it never drags. Plenty happens, all of it rooted in character and held together by Brolin, who gives the film a layered epicenter through his memorable CGI/voice performance.

The Thanos facial effects rank somewhere between Planet of the Apes and Superman’s mustache, while the outlying worlds and creatures sport satisfactory shine.

But we cannot get behind what they’re doing with Hulk. Not digging it.

The very best films in the Marvel universe excel in nuanced big thinking (Black Panther, Winter Soldier) or bullseye tonality (Spider-Man: Homecoming). Infinity War gets close on both battlegrounds, but lays up to bet on its own long game.

True, that sounds like cliched word salad, but we’re steering clear of planet spoiler.

Infinity War tackles some big ideas and makes some brave choices that may cause you to reassess the entire Marvel franchise.

Not everyone will be pleased.

But props to Markus, McFeely and the Russos, for being unmoved by the Last Jedi fanboy uproar and following an ambitious vision. And their film does entertain. There’s not a minute of bloat and there is plenty of thought-provoking story likely to make this a movie earning more respect through time and space.





Say It Loud

Black Panther

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Ryan Coogler’s stunning first feature, 2013’s Fruitvale Station, proved his instincts as a storyteller. It also made apparent the force of nature that is Michael B. Jordan. That the two could go on just two years later to craft the fresh and vibrant Creed from the tired Rocky franchise showed that the blockbuster was as much in their mastery as the indie drama.

But a Marvel superhero action flagship? That’s Big. Big budgets. Big canvas. And with Black Panther, big expectations. Are Coogler and Jordan up to the challenge?

Hell yes.

Just when you’ve gotten comfortable with the satisfying superhero origin story at work, director/co-writer Coogler, co-star Jordan and the stellar ensemble start thinking much bigger. And now, we need to re-think what these films are capable of.

The action—whether air battles, hand-to-hand or via car chase—is breathtaking.

Wielding a palette of colors and visuals unseen to this point inside the MCU—this set design is glorious, situating a SciFi tech metropolis easily within a world that still embraces ancient tradition, an isolated world that evolved in its own course rather than being led by the evolution of the world outside. Wakanda looks unlike anything we’ve seen in the Marvel Universe or any other.

Not a minute of the film is wasted. Coogler manages to pack each with enough backstory, breathless action, emotional heft and political weight to fill three films.

The cast shines from the top down, but there are some stand-outs.

Chadwick Boseman, all gravitas and elegance, offers the picture perfect king—one who’s respectful of tradition yet still ready to open his eyes to the plight of his brothers outside his hidden nation of Wakanda.

Side note: is there anyone more effortlessly badass than Danai Gurira? Trick question, there is no question—the answer is no. And though she has remarkable range (if you haven’t seen her 2013 indie Mother of George, give yourself that gift today), her General Okoye is here for the beat down.

Lupita Nyong’o is also characteristically excellent in the role of the conscience-driven liberal. In a scene where she expects Gurira’s general to commit what amounts to treason, Coogler expertly reinforces an amazingly well-crafted theme mirrored in other pairings: the friction between surviving by force or by conscience.

This theme is most clearly outlined by the conflict between Boseman’s King T’Challa and his new nemesis, Jordan’s Killmonger.

Michael B. Jordan, people.

Coogler hands this actor all of the most difficult lines. Why? Because it is material a lesser actor would choke on, and Jordan delivers like a perfectly placed gut punch. He sets the screen on fire, and though every single performance in this film is excellent, Jordan exposes the artifice. His castmates are in a Marvel superhero movie. Jordan is not. Instead, he is this rage-filled, broken, vengeful man and he is here to burn this world to the ground.

His scenes with Boseman provide a cunning twist on the battle between a struggling hero and his evil twin. Usually a tired staple of sequeldom, BP adds an undercurrent of Shakespearean drama to the inevitable showdown of two characters who could easily represent the dueling inner conflict of one.

Coogler works with many of these basic themes found in nearly any comic book film—daddy issues, becoming who you are, serving others—but he weaves them into an astonishing look at identity, radicalization, systemic oppression, uprising and countless other urgent yet tragically timeless topics. The writing is layered and meaningful, the execution visionary.

Blistering social commentary, brilliant escapist fantasy, eye-popping visual wonder—Black Panther has it all.

Your move, every other superhero.

 





We Are Marshall

Marshall

by Hope Madden

Thurgood Marshall is among the most fascinating figures in contemporary American history. Too bad his biopic isn’t about him.

Marshall, director Reginald Hudlin’s glimpse at the first black Supreme Court justice’s earlier career as a tireless NAACP lawyer, offers an image of the man by way of one of his court cases.

It’s an interesting case, though probably not the best Marshall case to choose as a focus. It does, however, allow the unearthing of many complex and unfortunately still relevant issues of racism and injustice.

Like a hardboiled detective story turned historical courtroom drama, the film follows the 1941 case of Connecticut Versus Joseph Spell in which a white New England socialite (Kate Hudson) accused her African American chauffeur (Sterling K. Brown) of rape and attempted murder.

In the role of Thurgood Marshall is go-to biopic actor Chadwick Boseman. As you might expect given his string of impressive performances, Boseman has brooding, wise-beyond-his-years charisma to spare.

Josh Gad plays Marshall’s unlikely partner-in-justice Sam Friedman, a Connecticut tax attorney who wants nothing to do with this case. He and Boseman share a sometimes comical odd couple chemistry that often works in the film’s favor but just as often does not.

This speaks to one of Marshall’s two major weaknesses: Hudlin can’t find a tone. Too stylized to be a straight biopic, comical enough to feel tone deaf once the seriousness of the subject matter settles in, Marshall rarely finds its footing.

More problematic, though, is the court case itself.

Don’t get me wrong, this case is rife with cinematic elements and historical significance. The problem is that father and son writers Jacob and Michael Koskoff chose a case in which Thurgood Marshall was voiceless.

The presiding judge, capably played by the always welcome James Cromwell, forbade the out-of-state attorney to speak in court. An amazing piece of racially motivated injustice right there, making it another fascinating detail. It also means that we don’t get to see Thurgood Marshall command this court case.

It’s Gad’s Friedman who handles the courtroom drama—which he does quite well—but it leaves us with only some outside the courtroom mentoring and challenges from Marshall, and not enough else.

It may not totally sink a film built on solid performances and engaging material, but it’s enough to keep Marshall from making the kind of lasting impression it should have.





Stark and the Captain Make it Happen

Captain America: Civil War

by Hope Madden

 

Cap (Chris Evans) and his besties battle their own in a fight to save the Avengers. In-fighting is rarely this entertaining.

Who would have guessed that the best stand-alone Avengers series would be Captain America’s? He lacks the edge of Iron Man or the SciFi sex appeal of Thor. Still – whether it’s because the series remains true to the nature of the character, or because Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely know how to pen a compelling superhero flick – Steve Rogers shoulders the most reliable Avengers franchise.

Civil War even manages to succeed where most superhero sequels fail by squeezing in a fully ridiculous number of characters without over-burdening the narrative. Minimizing the number and presence of villains helps, because, while there is a baddie in Civil War, the majority of combat comes courtesy of Hero V Hero.

The film begs comparison to the much maligned DC superhero standoff Batman V Superman for obvious reasons. Our heroes are mad at each other; collateral damage and the need for oversight are to blame; mommy issues run deep. Certainly, Civil War handles the material better, but part of that is because of the film’s affection for established characters.

McFeely and Marcus’s humorous screenplay allows the natural chemistry among the players to shine brighter than their individual star power.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo – following up their success with the Winter Soldier – lens many of the action sequences with great movement and punch, but the climactic battle between the biggies should feel bigger. The camera captures individual pairings to make the most of character expression, one-liners, and fun, but the brothers behind the camera never step back far enough to give us a look at at the larger-than-life battle taking place.

Are there other flaws? Sure. I mean, you and I know that it’s pointless to disbelieve or distrust Captain America. Of course he’s right – he’s the conscience of the Marvel universe. So why doesn’t Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) know it? Also, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) never find a groove as characters, but the new Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and a wildly enjoyable Spider-Man (Tom Holland) more than make up for that. Plus, Ant Man (Paul Rudd) is a hoot, regardless of the fact that he clearly has no idea why he’s fighting against other good guys.

Civil War stands out as certainly the biggest of the stand alones, and among the best because of what it has in common with the better films in the Marvel universe: the conflict is deeply human, told humorously, and best enjoyed if you don’t overthink it.

Verdict-3-5-Stars





Soul Power

 

Get On Up

by George Wolf

 

As a broke college student at Ohio State in 1985, I saved my pennies and stood in a line halfway down High St. to see Mr. Dynamite live at the Newport Music Hall.

My first cellphone ringtone was “Sex Machine.”

The point is, I love me some James Brown, and I really liked Get On Up.

It’s a bit of a relief, because with director Tate Taylor at the helm, I feared Brown’s story would get the same clichéd, soccer-mom-feel-good treatment Taylor gave The Help. Instead, buoyed by a meaty script from veteran writers Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth (Edge of Tomorrow/Fair Game) he takes some chances that pay dividends.

Get On Up breaks the “fourth wall” early and often, as Brown (Chadwick Boseman) looks the audience in the eye and reminds everyone how big a musical influence he remains to this day. This ignites a swagger that anchors the entire film, which, considering the subject, is the absolutely perfect vibe.

It ain’t braggin’ if you back it up, and Brown, warts and all, was one of the most important musical and cultural figures of the 20th century.

Taylor shows us Brown’s rags to riches story – from growing up in a Georgia brothel to easing tensions after Martin Luther King’s assassination – in scattershot fashion, dropping in on different periods without regard to chronology. Not only does this offer a stylistic alternative to similar films such Walk the Line and Ray, but it presents Brown as a sum of equal parts while also ensuring that any overt sentimentality is never given time to add weight.

Boseman is flat-out terrific, serving notice that his fine performance as Jackie Robinson in 42 was just a warm-up act. Boseman has Brown’s speaking voice, cocksure attitude and his incredible moves down cold, combining them all for a portrayal full of an electric charisma.

Anyone who remembers Eddie Murphy’s classic “James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub” from SNL knows how easily a Brown impersonation could slip into parody, but Boseman avoids any hint of it. His is a completely authentic performance that needs to be remembered in the coming award season.

From the early “chitlin circuit” tours, to the Apollo Theater to the legendary T.A.M.I. show, Taylor frames the live performance sequences with the cracking, cold sweat-inducing urgency that music this great demands. Kudos, too, to the sound editing department, frequently mixing Brown’s original vocal tracks into new arrangements, enabling wonderfully seamless film recreations.

Okay, so Brown’s personal demons could have been given more gravity, and there are a few biopic crutches (soul- searching in a dressing room mirror, for instance), but Taylor and the Butterworth boys score with the humanity they bring to two profound relationships in Brown’s life:  his longtime friend Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis) and his mother Susie (Viola Davis).

There’s true poignancy to the moments that find Susie, after a long absence, visiting her triumphant son backstage. It’s the film’s non-musical highlight, and yet another reminder of how little screen time Davis needs to be unforgettable.The same can be said for Brown’s music, and while this film will certainly thrill the fans, it’s good enough to win him plenty of new ones.

Get on up?

It’s pretty damn hard not to.

 

Verdict-4-0-Stars

 





Countdown: Best (and Worst) Actors Playing Athletes

 

Major League‘s 25th anniversary meets Draft Day‘s opening weekend, and it got us chatting about the more and less convincing onscreen athletic performances. Remember Chelcie Ross as Eddie Harris, veteran Tribe pitcher and Jobu hater? How old was that guy, a hundred? (Fun fact: he was 47.) We believed he was a MLB starting pitcher almost as much as we bought Denis Leary playing a grizzled NFL coach. But is anybody worse? And does anybody do it well?

Most Convincing

Kevin Costner

It really doesn’t matter the sport. He’s convinced us as a baseball player several times, and a golfer. And it’s not just the easy athleticism or the mechanics, but his comfort with lingo and team relationships. We’re sold.

Jamie  Foxx

Any Given Sunday lacks a lot. A lot. But one thing it absolutely possesses is a realistic athlete in the form of Jamie Foxx. He has grace and skill and his onfield performance is almost enough to compensate for Al Pacino’s screeching.

Woody Harrelson

The guy can play basketball. Hustling on a playground or finishing a semi-pro career, Harrelson has some skill on the court. Dunking or not, tell Aunt Bea we said he can ball.

Chadwick Boseman

He had some big shoes to fill in 42, and not only does he look the part off the diamond, he actually swings a bat and throws a ball with the confidence of a man brave enough to play Jackie Robinson.

Charlie Sheen

Sheen’s passion for baseball is well-known, and he took his role as an MLB pitcher seriously. Whether he was throwing just a bit outside or right down the plate, Sheen had pretty smooth delivery. Hell, maybe he Tribe should sign him up.

 

Least Convincing

And we’re not talking about Will Ferrell, who put his lack of athleticism to excellent use as a basketball player (Semi-Pro), skater (Blades of Glory), soccer coach (Kicking and Screaming), NASCAR driver (Talladega Nights). Ditto for Will’s buddy Danny McBride, whose casting as a 100 mph fireballer in East Bound and Down is equally ludicrous. No, these are the folks who were wildly miscast as serious athletes.

There are a lot of options here. Rob Lowe in Youngblood as hockey player who clearly cannot skate. Or Madonna in A League of Their Own. Or pint sized Michael J. Fox playing basketball in Teen Wolf – sure it’s a comedy, but is it the basketball itself that was meant to draw giggles?

There are other real standouts, though.

Wesley Snipes

Snipes wins. The guy was forever being cast as an athlete, and though he looked good in a uniform, team sports were clearly not his bag. You might not know it from casual viewings of Major League – yes he made that catch at the wall but notice you never see him throwing – but between The Fan and White Men Can’t Jump, you do.

Bernie Mac

In Mr. 3000, Mac plays an unlikeable, retired hitter planning to skate into the hall of fame on just his career hit total:  3000 exactly.  But when an error in the stats reveals he’s short, he goes back to the diamond regardless of the fact that Mac had clearly never held a bat in his life. Usually it’s the throwing motion that gives an actor away, but Mac was so unconvincing at the plate we actually missed the technique of Wesley Snipes.

Anthony Michael Hall

In 1988, Uma Thurman was still unknown, Robert Downey, Jr. was still high, and Anthony Michael Hall was still a 90 pound weakling. So whoever decided to cast him as the number one high school football recruit in Johnny Be Good was clearly sharing  Downey’s brownies, because Hall wasn’t just far too small to be taken seriously. He looked like he was playing with his eyes closed.

Anthony Perkins

Three years before his breakout brilliance in Psycho, Anthony Perkins played another character with mental illness. Mental illness he handled well. Unfortunately, in Fear Strikes Out, that character – Jimmy Piersall – was also a Major League center fielder. Tee ball players show a more commanding grasp of the game. It’s hard to imagine anyone looking more lost than Perkins looked at the plate, in the field, heck, in the building.

Tim Robbins

While Bull Durham may be the greatest sports movie of all time, with much of its success due to casting, choosing Tim Robbins to play pitching phenom Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh clearly had nothing to do with his presence on the mound. Robbins is a limby, wobbly mess and that was the ugliest windup in sports movie history.

 

 





Too Safe at Home

by George Wolf

 

Just this week, Major League Baseball announced the formation of a task force charged with finding ways to reverse the decline of African Americans in the sport.

Even if it wasn’t timed to coincide with the release of 42, that announcement would bring Jackie Robinson to mind.

The story of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier is heroic, inspiring, and uniquely American. So why did news of a movie version bring immediate fears of how that story could falter?

Well, precisely because of some of the aspects 42 incorporates into its brand of storytelling.

To be fair, writer/director Brian Helgeland’s film is solid in areas that will most likely move audiences to cheers and applause. Crowd-pleasing aside, though, Helgeland’s biography too often becomes hagiography, casting Robinson as a near-biblical figure in a way that ultimately does a disservice to his achievements.

Helgeland, though more experienced as a writer than director, displays a nice feel for the pacing of Robinson’s story and for the historical details of the era. Rather than crafting the film as a slow build to Robinson’s first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, Helgeland takes the tale from Robinson’s days in the Negro Leagues through his first season in “white baseball” with a speed that is brisk but never hurried. Though clocking in at slightly over two hours, 42 never feels bloated.

For baseball geeks like me, the rosters are familiar, the stadiums look great and the on-field play is competent. On those fronts, which are indeed important in a film such as this, thumbs up all around.

But as good as much of it looks, there is little intimacy.  Chadwick Boseman is terrific as Jackie (looks like him, too) but isn’t given the room to explore anything beyond a one-dimensional saint.  Harrison Ford gives a solid, albeit sometimes scenery-chewing performance as Dodgers executive Branch Rickey, leading a supporting lineup that is stacked with talent. The Tenth Man Award must go to John C. McGinley. His dead-on turn as legendary announcer Red Barber provides a joyous reminder of baseball on the radio.

Reminders are fine, but if that’s all Helgeland was after, he needed to aim higher. We know Robinson is an American hero, but he was human.  We see some of the ugliness he faced (most likely a very small, watered-down sample), but we don’t feel his human struggle to the degree that we should.

This lack of depth is surprising, as Helgeland has penned complex, intelligent scripts before, such as Mystic River and L.A. Confidential. With 42, he is tentative, too afraid to stray from the Hollywood formula for fear of swinging and missing.

Ironic, and disappointing.

      Verdict-3-0-Stars