Marshall
(Reginald Hudlin)

 Chadwick Boseman and Sterling K. Brown in a scene from Reginald Hudlin's  Marshall  {Photo: OPEN ROAD FILMS}

Chadwick Boseman and Sterling K. Brown in a scene from Reginald Hudlin's Marshall {Photo: OPEN ROAD FILMS}

Marshall opens the Chicago International Film Festival at the AMC River East 21 on Thursday, October 12 at 7:30PM. Director Reginald Hudlin, producer Paula Wagner, and actors Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, and Sterling K. Brown are scheduled to attend for a post-screening Q&A. For additional ticketing information, refer to the Chicago International Film Festival website here

I know that most films are products and designed with commercial intentions that involve an unimaginable amount of fiduciary interests to insure their success, but there’s something exceedingly unsavory about Reginald Hudlin’s Marshall. The film details one of Thurgood Marshall’s (Chadwick Boseman) lesser-known cases involving Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), a black man accused of raping a white woman. Marshall partners with Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), a local Connecticut insurance lawyer who, as the trite adage goes, is way over his head. I was persuaded by the film’s performances, which are engineered with the kind of saccharine desire for uplift that biopics so frequently strive for. But it’s painfully clear from the onset of Marshall that this is a film that’s not going to challenge its audiences, instead it’s content with its hagiography. There’s no complexity or nuance to anything about the film. It tells the story of a great man and suggests nothing else; it offers nothing especially useful to think about. I left the theater feeling adequately uplifted, but it’s a biological reaction to a routine approach. It’s unfortunate that a film about one of America’s great humanists could be so stiff, mechanical, and forgettable.