“Judas and the Black Messiah” opened on HBO Max last weekend and I’m not gonna bother with a formal review of the film because you can find those anywhere, and because “Judas” is already on its way to amassing a stockpile of award show trophies that a dragon could comfortably rest upon. Most of those trophies, including an Oscar, are gonna be handed out because of this man, Daniel Kaluuya:
You might remember Kaluuya from his breakout role in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” Kaluuya got nominated for Best Actor for “Get Out,” and holy s—t did he deserve it. I remember I spent the entirety of that movie terrified for poor Chris. I also remember that when Kaluuya didn’t win Best Actor that year (fellow Brit Gary Oldman got it for playing Winston Churchill), it was okay because anyone who saw Kaluuya’s performance knew he’d be nominated for many, many other roles afterward. Three years later, after sharing the bill for “Widows” and for “Black Panther,” he’s delivered a performance in “Judas and the Black Messiah” that fulfills all of that promise, and far beyond. I saw the trailer for “Judas,” featuring Kaluuya spewing hellfire and brimstone as civil rights legend Fred Hampton, and I was like, “Oh yeah, I’m watching that. He’s gonna kick ass.”
I did and he did. Kaluuya is gonna be back at the Oscars this year, and he’s gonna win that s—t this time around. Because “Judas and the Black Messiah” proves that he’s the best goddamn actor on Earth right now.
Now, Warner Bros. submitted Kaluuya in the supporting actor category for “Judas,” because his “Get Out” co-star LaKeith Stanfield plays the spiritual lead (and is REALLY good) as FBI informant William O’Neal. But “Judas” belongs to Kaluuya’s Fred Hampton.
Hampton was the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers. His name and his story were completely unfamiliar to me before I started watching Judas. This is because I’m ignorant, and because American schools were far too stingy back in my childhood, and remain so, about allowing nonwhite material into the curriculum. Hampton’s story should be taught. This movie should be taught. And perhaps it will be, because the force of Kaluuya’s performance all but demands it.
You can’t take your eyes off of Daniel Kaluuya. Even in the tender scenes Kaluuya shares with love interest Dominique Fishback, his presence still bleeds off the screen. If Kaluuya spent the rest of his life in character AS Fred Hampton, I would vote him for president. I would pay him money to come to my town, give a speech as Fred and get everyone so fired up they could run through a god damn brick wall. I would like an expanded Fred Hampton Cinematic Universe.
In fact, that’s not far enough. I would like Daniel Kaluuya to be in EVERY movie now. Usually, when you go to an actor’s IMDb page, they have 900 future projects in development, half of which make you wince in anticipation. Kaluuya has just one: a Netflix adaptation of the science fiction novel “The Upper World.” I do not trust Netflix to make this show good — Netflix is like if you went to a brick-and-mortar Blockbuster store and everything in it sucked — but I do trust Kaluuya to play the hell out of his character.
He’s also due to star in “Black Panther 2,” and if they choose to make W’Kabi the next Black Panther (Marvel has already said that they will not recast the late Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, but will find another character to assume the mantle of the Black Panther; now you know as much as the rest of us do about it), you won’t see me complain. This world requires a massive Kaluuya stimulus. Democrats should send every household at least 2,000 Kaluuyas, and not a piddly-s—t 1,400. Hollywood should spin off his tinyass “Sicario” character and make good movies with that character instead of making garbage like “Sicario 2,” which looked like it was produced by Vince McMahon. Make Kaluuya the next Bond. Give him a standalone “Star Wars” franchise that Kathleen Kennedy is barred from ruining. Actually, you know what? F—k “Star Wars.” Daniel Kaluuya is too good for “Star Wars.” Keep Kaluuya away from “Star Wars” and make him Ahab instead. Make him Ellison’s “Invisible Man.” Make him Holden Caulfield. Make him Dracula. Make him “JAWS.”
Better yet, make Daniel Kaluuya a character no one has seen or heard of before. This man is part of a breakout mainstream movement in Black cinema that’s the newest, best thing coming out of Hollywood right now. Kaluuya is proof that the movement is already producing more exciting work than the incessant IP-humping that constitutes the bulk of studio products.
This man is not only talented, but he’s also got the juice to keep pushing Hollywood out of its deadened comfort zone. F—k, I’d pay to watch Daniel Kaluuya read the transcript of an investment firm’s Zoom call. I don’t care. Great actors elevate bad material and consecrate great material. That’s what Daniel Kaluuya can do. There’s no stopping him. There’s no need to try. Give him every Oscar, and then get out of his way.
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