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The biggest question I had coming out of Destin Daniel Cretton’s handsomely crafted adaptation of Bryan Stevenson’s memoir Just Mercy is whether or not people are willing to hear its message. If, like me, you already recognize and agree with its argument that our justice system is broken and has racial prejudices built into it, then you simply sit there and nod. But maybe it’s not for me. Maybe it’s for the people who thought Green Book was brilliant because an ordinary white guy learned to respect an extraordinary black guy. I don’t know if Just Mercy will break through to those who fail to see larger racial injustice in America, but Cretton and his terrific cast and crew take their best shot to challenge their audience without making them too uncomfortable.
In 1987 in Monroe County, Alabama, Walter “Johnny D” McMillian (Jamie Foxx) is arrested and convicted for the murder of a young white woman. A couple years later, freshly minted attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) comes down to Alabama to help provide legal assistance to inmates on death row including Johnny D. Bryan quickly sees that the case against Johnny D is weak and flimsy, and that his battle isn’t against a mountain of evidence but the entrenched racism of the legal system and the white Alabama community. Bryan battles to get Johnny D free, but is confronted by racism, threats, and a system that rests on keeping black men like Johnny D locked up for their labor or their lives.
Image - Warner - Bros
Image via Warner Bros.
I fully recognize that a lot of people don’t seek out entertainment that’s a bummer. It’s very easy for me to recommend a great miniseries like When They See Us, but I understand that a lot of viewers, however well-meaning, don’t want to go through...
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