Boseman Leaps Off The Screen. “Marshall” Doesn’t.

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In 1967 Thurgood Marshall became the first African-American Supreme Court Justice.

MV5BNzg3YTc4N2ItZmZkZS00OWE1LWIyNGMtNzYzZWQzMzVkZWI2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ3MjE4NTU@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_But for 25-years before that he was the chief litigator for the NAACP, arguing civil rights cases in courtrooms around the country. His most famous case was Brown v. Board of Education in which the high court agreed with his arguments that separate but equal arrangements in education were not equal at all. It was one of 29 out of 32 Supreme Court cases he argued and won.

But “Marshall” is about a more sensational,  lesser and little known 1940 case – albeit with life and death consequences – about a black chauffeur, played by Sterling K. Brown, accused of raping a white socialite in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

To try the case Marshall, played by Chadwick Boseman teams with a local Jewish lawyer played by Josh Gadd, whose speciality was insurance cases, after the WASP-y, ill-tempered judge, played by James Cromwell, bars out-of-town litigator Marshall from speaking in court.

“Marshall” is a fairly conventional, by-the-numbers affair, in which the so-called crime is portrayed in a number of flashbacks, Marshall himself deals with a crisis in his marriage and both he and Gadd battle racism and anti-Semitism.

Boseman, who has played James Brown, Jackie Robinson and is the Black Panther in the marvel films, portrays Marshall as a hard-headed assertive superhero of sorts, traveling the country to fight injustice.

The social dynamic being portrayed is important and powerful. And Marshall’s colorful life is likely filled with a history book’s worth of cinematic-worthy anecdotes that deserve to be told. But his story might be better served in something more complex, like a continuing mini-series or anthology TV format.

Because while this portrayal of him leaps off the screen, the story being told by director Reginald Hudlin, doesn’t.

**1/2

With, Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gadd, James Cromwell, Kate Hudson, Sterling K. Brown. Directed by Reginald Hudlin.

Rated PG-13: sexuality, mature theme, language

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