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Judas and the Black Messiah

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What's it rated? R

When? 2021

Where's it showing? HBO Max

A DANGEROUS MAN In Judas and the Black Messiah screening on HBO Max, Daniel Kaluuya stars as Black Panther Fred Hampton, who was considered so dangerous by the FBI and Chicago police that he was murdered in his bed by law enforcement. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BRON CREATIVE
  • Photo Courtesy Of Bron Creative
  • A DANGEROUS MAN In Judas and the Black Messiah screening on HBO Max, Daniel Kaluuya stars as Black Panther Fred Hampton, who was considered so dangerous by the FBI and Chicago police that he was murdered in his bed by law enforcement.

Shaka King (Newlyweeds) directs this biopic set in the late '60s about Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, who comes under the scrutiny of J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) and the FBI. It's also the story of informant Bill O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), who's coerced by FBI agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) to infiltrate the Black Panthers and spy on Hampton and his operation. Finally, it's also the story of Hampton's relationship with fellow revolutionary Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback), who was with Hampton the night he was assassinated in bed by law enforcement.

It's always good to be reminded of our faults, and the sad case of Fred Hampton and Bill O'Neal is yet another black mark on U.S. history. You may not realize it watching this film, since Kaluuya is 31 and Stanfield is 29, but Hampton was murdered when he was just 21 years old, and O'Neal was a 17-year-old when he was forced by the FBI to infiltrate the Black Panthers. The episode shows how fearful the powers that be were of Panthers, who thanks to government propaganda were horribly maligned.

Both Kaluuya and Stanfield deliver remarkable performances. Kaluuya embodies Hampton's undeniable charisma, and Stanfield communicates O'Neal's inner torment as he awakens to the Panthers' powerful message of unity. (126 min.) Δ

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