Malcolm X

"Excellent"

Malcolm X Review


Before getting distracted by side projects, Allan Houston, and self-parody, Spike Lee was a great young filmmaker, and every release was an event. From Do the Right Thing to Jungle Fever, Lee's movies addressed race from a perspective never before seen in American multiplexes, and their energy, style, and stories evoked joy and rage from their audiences.

Lee was also a star himself. Even when not behind (or, sometimes, in front of) his camera, Lee's appreciation of black radical movements drew heat from conservatives, laurels from liberals, dedication from American minority communities, and attention from everyone.

And so it was that Lee fulfilled his destiny by creating Malcolm X, a movie that was discussed more on Sunday morning news shows than on Siskel and Ebert. Conservative critics bashed it as "hero worship." They missed the point.

Malcolm X certainly isn't your average icon-as-human-being biopic. It's more a tribute to the lasting influence of a man who was powerful and important even when misguided. The three-hour-plus movie roughly follows the order of the Black nationalist leader's life as played out in Alex Haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X, but it also spares many of Malcolm's more serious warts (like his traditionalist treatment of women).

What makes the movie a spectacular success are the immense talents of Lee at the peak of his career, Denzel Washington's star turn as Malcolm (easily his best performance until Training Day came along nine years later), and the film's long view of history.

Washington's richly layered portrayal of Malcolm, as he progresses from thug to prison convert to angry Nation of Islam leader to messenger of peace, is absolutely electrifying. His performance especially peaks during the final act, which creates an impermeable sense of doom as it focuses on Malcolm's last day before his assassination by forces allegedly inside the Nation of Islam.

Malcolm X is too long, too imperfectly paced, too superficial in some places, and too obsessive in others, but it's also highly entertaining, illuminating, and deeply inspiring. Far from worshipping its subject, Malcolm X shows the hero as a man, and the man as a critical part of the cultural progress of 20th-century America.

Now available on special edition DVD, the film includes commentary by Lee and members of his crew, deleted scenes, and two documentaries: One about the making of the film and a 1972 archival feature about Malcolm X the man.



Malcolm X

Facts and Figures

Run time: 202 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 18th November 1992

Box Office Worldwide: $48.2M

Budget: $34M

Distributed by: Warner Bros.

Production compaines: JVC Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 50 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Malcolm X, as Dr. Betty Shabazz, as Baines, Al Freeman, Jr. as Elijah Muhammad, as West Indian Archie, as Shorty, as Laura, as Sophia, as Captain Green, as Thomas Hayer, as Miss Dunne, as Chaplain Gill


Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Amy Movie Review

Amy Movie Review

As with his Formula One documentary Senna, filmmaker Asaf Kapadia cleverly uses archival footage to...

Terminator Genisys Movie Review

Terminator Genisys Movie Review

This declining franchise really needed a jolt to the head, but the producers disappointingly opt...

Magic Mike XXL Movie Review

Magic Mike XXL Movie Review

Resisting the temptation to capitalise on the camp value of these characters, Channing Tatum and...

She's Funny That Way Movie Review

She's Funny That Way Movie Review

Wacky enough to make us smile but never laugh out loud, this screwball comedy harks...

Advertisement
Everly Movie Review

Everly Movie Review

A relentless onslaught of violent action, this movie is notable mainly because there's a woman...

Slow West Movie Review

Slow West Movie Review

First-time feature filmmaker John Maclean takes a strikingly original approach to the Western, creating a...

Mr. Holmes Movie Review

Mr. Holmes Movie Review

Despite this being a film about Sherlock Holmes, the fact that it's not much of...

Entourage Movie Review

Entourage Movie Review

Both shameless and shamelessly entertaining, this relentlessly boyish movie carries on exactly as the TV...

Advertisement