I do love a good courtroom drama and this is a solid, competent one taken from the early years of the future “first African American Supreme Court Judge” Thurgood Marshall.
Here he’s played with flair, charisma and a necessary arrogance by Chadwick Boseman (who’s been James Brown and Jackie Robinson and The Black Panther) as he defends a black man accused of raping a society woman (Kate Hudson) in Bridgport Connecticut in the 1940s.
Marshall is the sole lawyer for the nascent NAACP movement, almost single-handedly fighting racial injustice in the courts all over America. The only way he can represent the accused in Connecticut is to work with a local lawyer, which is how insurance shyster Sam Friedman is reluctantly co-opted into it.
Played by Josh Gadd, it’s a welcome change of pace for the usually comic actor, although maybe his voice is now too familiar and if you close your eyes it does often sound like Olaf the Snowman is pleading for the defence.
United in persecution, the Jewish and Black lawyers combine to dismantle the prejudice and get to the truth of the case, facing beatings in bars, protesters on the courthouse steps, Dan Evans’ preening for the prosecution and, almost inevitably, James Cromwell, presiding.
There’s a nice, double bass-heavy score throughout and a compulsory rap song over the end credits, but it’s always enjoyable, and inspirational in a family movie sort of way, while the deeper issues of black representation and sexual fear are surfaces barely scratched.