Judas and the Black Messiah is a 2021 drama film co-written, produced, and directed by Shaka King (Newlyweeds, Shrill, and People of Earth). It’s based on the real life story of of Fred Hampton. It was written and produced by Will Berson (Scrubs, Run of the House, and The Mighty B!). It was produced by filmmaker Ryan Coogler (Creed 1/2, 30 for 30, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Black Panther, and Fruitvale Station). The project was first developed in 2014. It premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. It earned 6 Oscar nominations and it won 2. The budget was $26 million and it grossed $6.4 million at the box office.
In 1968, petty criminal William “Bill” O’Neal (played by: LaKeith Stanfield from Uncut Gems, Knives Out, Get Out, Death Note, and Sorry to Bother You) is arrested in Chicago after attempting to steal a car while posing as a federal officer. He is approached by FBI Special Agent Roy Mitchell (played by: Jesse Plemons from Breaking Bad, El Camino, The Irishman, Vice, Black Mass, and Game Night). He offers to have O’Neal’s charges dropped if he works undercover for the bureau. O’Neal is assigned to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and it’s leader Fred Hampton (played by: Daniel Kaluuya from Get Out, Black Panther, Sicario, Kick-Ass 2, and Queen & Slim). O’Neal begins to grow close to Hampton as time goes on. They work to form alliances with rival gangs and militia groups. Hampton’s persuasive oratory skills eventually help to form the multiracial Rainbow Coalition. Hampton falls in love with panther member Deborah Johnson (played by: Dominique Fishback from The Deuce, Project Power, and The Hate U Give) while his following grows bigger. When a fugitive Party member George Sams (played by: Terayle Hill from Willy’s Wonderland, Superfly, and Cobra Kai) hides out at the local BPP office, O’Neal learns from Mitchell that Sams is an informant whose presence allows the FBI to obtain search warrants.
When Hampton gets arrested, O’Neal begins to rise through the ranks to security captain as a promotion with the panthers. When a shootout between the Chicago Police and the BPP occurs at the chapter office, O’Neal sneaks out as the office is bombed by the police. J. Edgar Hoover (played by: Martin Sheen from The Dead Zone, The Departed, Badlands, Firestarter, Wall Street, The Final Countdown, and Apocalypse Now) puts pressure on the FBI about this case. O’Neal tries to quit being an informant but he is forced to continue by the relentless Mitchell. Hampton is released from prison and BPP member,Jimmy Palmer (played by: Ashton Sanders from The Equalizer 2, Capitive State, Moonlight, and Wu-Tang: An American Saga) gets killed by a police officer which causes all kinds of chaos between the community. Fellow member Jake Winters (played by: Algee Smith from Euphoria, The Hate U Give, and Detroit) engages in a shootout with police and killing several officers before being killed. O’Neal becomes very paranoid about being found out as a traitor as he goes deeper undercover. Will Hampton and the Black Panthers find out? or Does he keep living a lie to survive this rough reality????
When I originally watched Judas and the Black Messiah when it was first released, I thought it was just okay to be honest. Not sure if I was in a mood or distracted but I didn’t understand all the hype it was getting at the time. I have to admit, I was wrong with my first impression of this one because on this revisit for this blu ray review, my opinion completely changed on it. Maybe the replay value is just that good for Judas and the Black Messiah. The script is great here and it covers all the important events in Black Panther Fred Hampton’s life. This drama had a few suspenseful and tense moments, I really enjoyed the undercover subplot. I’ve never seen a bad performance from LaKeith Stanfield so far and this one is no different. He goes through so much in this. Daniel Kaluuya in his Oscar winning role steals the show as the powerful leader Fred Hampton. I thought the bond and chemistry between those two kept getting stronger as the production went on which added to the spy and traitor aspect. The supporting cast was on point here which included Jesse Plemons, Martin Sheen, Ashton Sanders, Algee Smith, and Terayle Hill. This is an interesting real life story and it’s definitely controversial. Usually my first impressions stick with me but this one grown into something much better than I thought it would be, RECOMMENDED!!!!!
Let’s talk about the high definition presentation from Warner Bros! This 1080p (2.39:1) transfer looks stunning on blu ray for this home video release. It captures the time and location where it all happened back in the day. It has a few different audio options which includes English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French: Dolby Digital 5.1, and Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 on this disc. All of the dialogue is crystal clear, the drama is elevated, and the music has a nice boost to it. It has English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Let’s discuss the special features from Warner Bros! “Fred Hampton for the People” is a little over 9 minutes. It has interviews with director Shaka King, producer Ryan Coogler, writers Kenny Lucas, Keith Lucas, Will Berson, actors Lakeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, and the son of Fred Hampton.They chat about Fred and the Black Panthers. They talk about the real life life events that took place. They go over adapting into a movie. They bring up the cast and performances. “Unexpected Betrayal” is almost 8 minutes. It has interviews with the same cast and crew as the previous extra. This one focuses on William “Bill” O’Neal. They chat about the man who betrayed Fred and the true events of what happened because of it. They praise and talk about Lakeith Stanfield’s performance. They bring up the suicide after appearing on a national televised interview from Bill. It also includes a slipcover and a digital code. It’s available everywhere right now, CHECK IT OUT!!!!