Judas and the Black Messiah hits theaters and HBO Max on Friday, Feb. 12. While the film landscape has been dominated by a Black Panther of a different sort the last few years, this film will shine a spotlight on Fred Hampton, one-time chairman for the Black Panther political party in the late 1960s.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Where to watch ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’
As a Warner Bros. film, Judas and the Black Messiah will be part of the studio’s “Same Day Premiere” initiative. This means that, alongside a release in whatever theaters happen to be open, the film will also premiere on HBO Max and be available for 30 days. With that timeframe, it should leave the service on March 10.
The Same Day Premiere plan launched late last year with the release of Wonder Woman 1984, which generated significant business for HBO Max. According to Business Insider, the service added 5 million new activations during the period that the DC Comics sequel was available.
The Little Things with Denzel Washington was the most recent Same Day Premiere, debuting on Jan. 29. The next release after Judas and the Black Messiah will be Tom & Jerry on Feb. 26.
What is the film about?
Judas and the Black Messiah follows the true story of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers, and William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield), a smalltime criminal conscripted by the FBI to infiltrate the organization and act as an informant.
The film has been met with widespread critical acclaim, boasting a 98% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics have singled out the strong performances of Kaluuya and Stanfield, the passionate direction, and the spotlight it shines on racial injustice. It was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Kaluuya) and Best Original Song at the Golden Globes and is expected to make waves at the Oscars as well.
The cast also boasts Project Power standout Dominique Fishback as Hampton’s girlfriend, Deborah Johnson; Jesse Plemons as O’Neal FBI contact; and, Martin Sheen and J. Edgar Hoover. Other notable cast members include Coming 2 America‘s Jermaine Fowler, Get Out‘s Lil Rel Howery, Moonlight‘s Ashton Sanders, and Ironheart‘s Dominique Thorne.
Shaka King co-wrote and directed Judas and the Black Messiah, taking over from Fate of the Furious and Straight Outta Compton helmer F. Gary Gray, who attached early in development. King’s strong work on the film is even more impressive considering his relatively slim filmography beforehand, mostly made up of TV work on shows like Shrill and High Maintenance.
King co-wrote the shooting script with Will Berson, another writer with a slim filmography made up of TV work. Earlier drafts of the film were written by Kenny and Keith Lucas, the twin brother comedy duo best known for playing the Yang Brothers in 22 Jump Street. The Lucases initially began pitching the film in 2014 and gained King’s attention when developing a TV pilot with him in 2016, according to Variety.
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