Just Mercy

Much like The Fonz before him, young Harvard-educated lawyer Bryan Stevenson has to travel down to the South to find some racial injustice to fight. The year is 1989 instead of the late ’50s, though. Otherwise, Michael B. Jordan gets to play Stevenson like a supercool superhero as he fights to free innocent black men from Alabama’s Death Row. It’s certainly no surprise that this carefully measured courtroom saga has put director Destin Daniel Cretton at the helm of Marvel’s upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Cretton will just have to drop in kung-fu set pieces instead of fiery speeches to create a new film in the Marvel template. Fortunately, Just Mercy’s tales of corrupt cops get punched up with plenty of star turns. Jamie Foxx’s work as real-life falsely-accused inmate Walter McMillian painfully portrays a cynical perpetual victim slowly finding new hope. Tim Blake Nelson also creates a genuinely complex character out of a redneck prisoner being used by the system. Rob Morgan’s sad turn as a troubled guilty Vietnam vet still almost steals the film, even when there’s no doubt of the wretched soul’s guilt as he’s sent to the electric chair. Those final moments are shot in an operatic style worthy of Marvel, too – although the studio would never let Cretton waste Brie Larson in the kind of bland supporting role that she gets here.