After graduating from Harvard, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or those not afforded proper representation. One of his first cases is that of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who is sentenced to die in 1987 for the murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite evidence proving his innocence. In the years that follow, Stevenson encounters racism and legal and political maneuverings as he tirelessly fights for McMillian’s life.
Plot: World-renowned civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson works to free a wrongly condemned death row prisoner.
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Runtime: 137 min
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Just Mercy dramatizes a real-life injustice with solid performances, a steady directorial hand, and enough urgency to overcome a certain degree of earnest advocacy.
“The acting cast is a slam dunk.”
In 1989, an idealistic young Harvard law graduate by the name of Bryan Stevenson travels to Alabama and founds the Equal Justice Initiative hoping to help fight for poor people who can’t afford representation. When he travels to a prison to meet death row inmates he meets Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian, an African-American man who was convicted of murdering of a white woman. Stevenson looks over the evidence in the case and discovers it hinges entirely on the testimony of convicted felon Ralph Myers, who provided a suspect testimony in exchange for a lighter sentence in his own trial.
Stevenson’s first move is to ask prosecutor Tommy Chapman for aid, but he dismisses him without even looking at his notes. From here Stevenson asks family friend Darnell Houston to testify that he was with a witness who corroborated Myers’ testimony the day of the murder, which would cause the prosecution’s case to fall apart. When Stevenson submits Houston’s testimony to get the ball rolling the police arrest him for perjury. Why? Houston is intimidated into refusing to testify in court.
Later, Stevenson approaches Myers about his testimony and he admits that he was coerced by the police who threatened to have him executed by electric chair. Stevenson appeals to the local court to grant McMillan a retrial and, even better, he convinces Myers to recant his testimony on the stand.
What happens next? You need to watch the film to find out.
In conclusion —
Michael B. Jordan has slowly turned into one the actors you have to pay close attention to — if he’s the main actor in any film you, at the very least, have to give it a watch. His new movie, Just Mercy is another example as to why that’s a fact. There’s something soft and quiet about his portrayal of Bryan Stevenson, but at the same time, the power he showcases on screen carries the film. As a matter of fact, all the acting in the movie is superb, which helps immensely because the path is predictable.
A predicable movie isn’t necessarily bad, but it takes away some of the mystery. This film is different because it’s based on real facts, but you can see the ending from a mile out. Furthermore, you’ll notice a sizable difference between when Jordan is on screen with the inmates on trial verses when he isn’t. When they are, the movie picks up across the board — the chemistry connects and the drama of the real-life events surrounding the film feel heightened. When they break away from that it feels like the movie loses a bit of it’s direction, it’s hard to explain.
Lastly, Jamie Foxx, who surprisingly isn’t on screen as much as I’d thought he’d be, nails every second of his role. Do you know what I want? If I had it my way I would have loved some more Jordan and Foxx one on one scenes. The two of them together were on-point!
When it comes to special features you get four; Making ‘Mercy,’ This Moment Deserves, The Equal Justice Initiative & deleted scenes. When you throw them all together you get a total of about 18 minutes of extra content (before the deleted scenes), which is never a bad thing.
Taking everything I’ve said into account, Just Mercy gets my recommendation for purchase to add to your collection. It’s worth a watch and if you’re in the middle on it, give it a rent at the very least. Beyond that, you can grab a copy at your local retailer when it releases on Blu-ray April 14th (physically) and March 24th digitally!
Did you catch Just Mercy in theater? Were you a fan of this movie? Will you be picking it up to own? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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