Director Reginald Hudlin takes a different approach examining the life of Civil Rights crusader Thurgood Marshall in the biopic fittingly titled Marshall starring Chadwick Boseman and Josh Gad. Instead of covering the historical figure’s life in epic fashion from his court battle concerning Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka to becoming the fist African-American Supreme Court Justice, Hudlin chooses to focuses on an early case in Connecticut involving a young Thurgood during 1940. The film takes a more intimate approach compared to other biopics focusing on one small and unknown case, but also adds some elements to the story that don’t always mix well with the very serious subject matter.
Marshall deals with a case in which an African-American Male has been accused of attacking and sexually assaulted a wealthy married white socialite played by Kate Hudson, yet at times director Reginald Hudlin wants the film to be an odd couple dramedy between Chadwick Boseman as the NAACP Trailblazer and local insurance lawyer Sam Friedman who reluctantly gets forced onto the defense team he wants nothing to do with. Hudlin has a history of directing comedies (House Party & The Ladies Man), but this not the type of film that should rely on laughs whatsoever and hurts the actors trying to bring these important people to life. The wise cracking between the legal duo is so out-of-place and the music makes matters even worse with a happy-go-lucky vibe as men have guns pulled on them due to the color of their skin.
What does work in Marshall is the compelling legal battle portion of the film, which allows Boseman and Gad to show off their dramatic side as they fight discrimination in and outside the courtroom. Without spoiling too much for those unfamiliar with the case, the legal drama angle is quite fascinating concerning the way Marshall and Friedman must handle the case and the mystery of what actually happened. Who’s telling the truth and who’s conspiring to bring an imbalance to the scales of justice is fascinating to watch unfold. There are some nice twists in Marshall that lead to some inevitable turns, but it’s still an absorbing experience seeing if the duo can defend their client against impossible odds in a time where being prejudice was normal and encouraged by many.
Reginald Hudlin may struggle to find the proper tone in parts of Marshall with his insistence of keeping some of the material light, but Chadwick Boseman does his part delivering a solid performance as Thurgood Marshall. Boseman brings the respected individual to life even though he’s working with a script that leaves a lot to be desired in terms of character depth. Boseman’s acting and on-screen presence makes Marshall worth watching and helps the audience forget some of the other aspects of the film that don’t click.
Overall, I give Marshall 2.75 out of 4 stars.