New wave of black films crests at 2019 Toronto International Film Festival

“Just Mercy” (***) A young Harvard educated lawyer, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), could have his pick of law firms, instead, he heads to rural Alabama to set up a small law practice that seeks to reverse death row sentences for wrongfully convicted prisoners. There are many in need, but one of his primary clients isWalter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who was convicted of killing a white woman. The film is set in 1989 and stars Jordan, but if you close your eyes and imagine a young Sidney Poitier in the lead role, you’ll get a feel for the tone of this well-intentioned but typical crime drama. Director Destin Daniel Cretton’s approach to the genre is formulaic but gets the job done. Cretton and co-writer Andrew Lanham use the real lawyer Stevenson’s award-winning non-fiction book “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” as source material to depict poor black men being railroaded into death sentences in the south—well into the late ’80s. Foxx gives his best performance since “Ray.” Jordan breaks out of his normal hero-ish mold to play a goodwill attorney, and that’s refreshing.

In theaters Dec. 2019. Info: www.justmercyfilm.com

About Dwight Brown

Dwight Brown is a film critic and travel writer. As a film critic, he regularly attends international film festivals including Cannes, Sundance, Toronto and the American Black Film Festival. Read more movie reviews by Brown at DwightBrownInk.com.

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