With Trademark fearlessness, Chadwick Boseman has already dived into big, historical roles: he transformed into baseball great Jackie Robinson in ‘42’ and is an electrifying James Brown in ‘Get on Up’. He’s a perfect fit for the aggrieved energy of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice, in a script set long before the crusading lawyer reached that lofty post. ‘Marshall’ is a trial drama set in 1940s Connecticut, where the mere sight of a dapper African American drew stares.
Jockeying for screen time is Josh Gad, as a local Jewish attorney appointed to a racially fraught case when Marshall is banned from speaking on behalf of his client. Gad, free of his usual cutesiness, is endured in a town that would never play golf or dine with him and an unlikely camaraderie blooms out of mutual persecution.
‘Marshall’ isn’t as flashy as it ought to be – squarish compositions and telegraphed reveals somehow underserve this epochal moment in American justice. The material deserves a director like peak-period Oliver Stone or Spike Lee, someone to excite the racial subtext of every furious exchange. Instead it has Reginald Hudlin (‘House Party’), no slouch but here delivering a fairly typical prestige movie.