Just Mercy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Just Mercy
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDestin Daniel Cretton
Screenplay by
Based onJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson
Produced byGil Netter
CinematographyBrett Pawlak
Edited byNat Sanders
Music byJoel P. West
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • September 6, 2019 (2019-09-06) (TIFF)
  • December 25, 2019 (2019-12-25) (United States)
Running time
137 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$25 million[1][2]
Box office$50.4 million[3]

Just Mercy is a 2019 American biographical legal drama film co-written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and starring Michael B. Jordan as Bryan Stevenson, Jamie Foxx as Walter McMillian, Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall, and Brie Larson. It explores the work of young defense attorney Bryan Stevenson who represents poor people on death row in the South. Featured is his work with Walter McMillian, who had been wrongfully convicted of the murder of a young woman. The film is based on Stevenson's 2014 eponymous memoir, in which he explored his journey to making his life's work the defense of African American prisoners.[4]

Just Mercy, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 6, 2019, was theatrically released by Warner Bros. Pictures on December 25, 2019. The film received positive reviews from critics and grossed $80.7million. Foxx was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role at the 26th Screen Actors Guild Awards. Both he and Michael B. Jordan won NAACP Image Awards for their respective roles.


In 1989, Harvard law graduate Bryan Stevenson travels to Alabama, intending to help defend poor people who cannot afford proper legal representation. Teaming with Eva Ansley, he forms the Equal Justice Initiative in the state capital, Montgomery. He embarks on trying to combat social injustices in criminal law and practice, which have resulted in a high rate of African Americans convicted and incarcerated in the state and nationwide.

Stevenson goes to a state prison to meet inmates who are on death row and who are seeking appeals of their convictions or sentences. Among these is Walter "Johnny D." McMillian, an African-American man who was convicted of the 1986 murder of Ronda Morrison, an 18-year-old white girl. McMillian has maintained his innocence.

When Stevenson reviews the evidence in the case, he learns that it hinges entirely on the testimony of convicted felon Ralph Myers. The convict had provided highly contradictory testimony to the prosecution in exchange for a plea deal and lighter sentence in his own pending trial.

Given these issues, Stevenson appeals to the current prosecutor, Tommy Chapman, for aid; he dismisses him without looking at his notes. Stevenson learns that, at the time of the murder, McMillian's family friend Darnell Houston was elsewhere with a witness who had subsequently falsely corroborated Myers' testimony. This evidence would cause the prosecution's case to fall apart, so Stevenson asks Houston to testify to his account. When Stevenson submits his testimony, police arrest Houston for perjury.

Although Stevenson gets the perjury charges dismissed, Houston is intimidated, so refuses to testify in court. Shortly afterward, Stevenson is threatened by two sheriff deputies, who force him from his car at gunpoint and illegally search the car. They refuse to tell him why he was pulled over, but release him.

During this period, Stevenson had a case on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of another death row inmate, Herbert Lee Richardson; the court denied the appeal. Convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend’s niece with a bomb on her porch, Richardson had been sentenced to death by electric chair. Unable to get it overturned, Stevenson promises to be with Richardson in his final moments and witnesses the execution.

On behalf of McMillian, Stevenson directly confronts Myers. He admits that police coerced his testimony by threatening him with a death sentence. Stevenson appeals to the local court to grant McMillian a retrial and successfully convinces Myers to recant his testimony on the stand, but the judge refuses to grant it.

Stevenson appears on 60 Minutes to rally public support in favor of McMillian, and appeals the court's decision to the Supreme Court of Alabama. The Supreme Court overturns the circuit court's decision, and grants McMillian a retrial. Stevenson tries to have the charges dismissed entirely. He confronts Chapman at home and tries to convince him to join in this motion; Chapman forces him to leave.

On the day of the motion, Stevenson appeals to the judge. That day Chapman joins him in the motion, the judge dismisses the charges, and McMillian is finally released from prison and reunited with his family.

An epilogue notes that Stevenson and Ansley continue their fight for justice. McMillian remained friends with Stevenson until his natural death in 2013. A follow-up investigation into Morrison's 1986 murder confirmed McMillian's innocence. Evidence suggested that a white man was likely responsible, but the case has never been officially solved. McMillian's former cellmate, Anthony Ray Hinton, remained on death row for 28 years. Stevenson handled his defense and was eventually able to get all the charges dropped. Hinton was released in 2015.



Development on the film began in 2015, when Broad Green Pictures hired Destin Daniel Cretton to direct, with Michael B. Jordan set to star.[5] In December 2017, Warner Bros. acquired the distribution rights for the film, after Broad Green Pictures had entered bankruptcy.[6] In July 2018, Jamie Foxx was set to co-star.[7] In August 2018, Brie Larson, O'Shea Jackson Jr. and Tim Blake Nelson also joined the cast, and filming started in Montgomery, Alabama, by August 30.[8][9][10][11] Filming in Atlanta, Georgia, began in September.[12] In October 2018, actors Dominic Bogart, Hayes Mercure and Karan Kendrick were added as well.[13][14]


The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 6, 2019.[15] It received an awards-qualifying limited release on December 25, 2019.[16] Originally set to expand to a wide release on January 17, 2020,[17] the film's expanded distribution was moved up to January 10, 2020, when it opened in 2,375 theaters.[18][19] In response to the murder of George Floyd, Warner Bros. Pictures made the film free on various streaming platforms during June 2020 to educate the public about systemic racism.[20]

On June 19, 2020, TBS, TNT, and truTV aired the film, along with the 2018 superhero film Black Panther, in which Jordan also starred, to support social justice in celebration of Juneteenth.[21] The broadcast was presented by Anthony Anderson and featured interviews with Bryan Stevenson, along with U.S. Senator Kamala Harris and comic and TV host W. Kamau Bell.[22]


Critical response[edit]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports an 85% approval rating based on 306 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Just Mercy dramatizes a real-life injustice with solid performances, a steady directorial hand, and enough urgency to overcome a certain degree of earnest advocacy."[23] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 68 out of 100 based on 50 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[24] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a rare average grade of "A+" on an A+ to F scale, and PostTrak reported it received an average 4.5 out of 5 stars, with 73% of people saying they would definitely recommend it.[25]

Box office[edit]

Just Mercy grossed $36 million in the United States and Canada, and $14.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $50.4 million.[3]

On its first day of limited release, the film made $81,072 from four theaters.[26] Just Mercy made $105,000 in its opening weekend, December 27–29, for a five-day total of $228,072.[27] The film grossed $425,862 over the 15 days of limited release. It took in $3.7 million on the first day of wide release, including $800,000 from Thursday night previews. The film made a total of $10 million over the weekend, finishing fourth at the box office.[25] Just Mercy grossed $5.8 million over its second weekend of wide release, and $7.5 million over the full four-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, finishing seventh.[28]


Award nominations for Just Mercy
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
AARP's Movies For Grownups Awards January 11, 2020 Best Supporting Actor Jamie Foxx Nominated [29]
African-American Film Critics Association December 2, 2019 Best Supporting Actor Won [30]
Top 10 films of the year Just Mercy Won
Black Reel Awards February 6, 2020 Outstanding Film Asher Goldstein and Gil Netter Nominated [31]
Outstanding Supporting Actor Jamie Foxx Nominated
Outstanding Ensemble Carmen Cuba Nominated
NAACP Image Awards February 22, 2020 Outstanding Motion Picture Just Mercy Won [32]
Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Michael B. Jordan Won
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Jamie Foxx Won
Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture Destin Daniel Cretton Nominated
Outstanding Breakthrough Role in a Motion Picture Rob Morgan Nominated
Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture Just Mercy Won
National Board of Review January 8, 2020 Freedom of Expression Award Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards January 19, 2020 Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Jamie Foxx Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Just Mercy (2019)". The Numbers. Archived from the original on December 25, 2019. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  2. ^ "Just Mercy" tells the story of Walter McMillian, a wrongfully convicted man who fights a flawed criminal justice system". NBC News. October 24, 2019. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Just Mercy (2019)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on January 8, 2020. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
  4. ^ "Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson | Bestselling Book and Adapted Film". JustMercy.eji.org. Archived from the original on November 20, 2019. Retrieved November 22, 2019.
  5. ^ McNary, Dave (September 8, 2015). "'Walk in the Woods' Boosts Broad Green Pictures". Variety. Archived from the original on July 23, 2019. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  6. ^ Kit, Borys (November 30, 2017). "Warner Bros. Picks Up Michael B. Jordan Legal Drama 'Just Mercy'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 16, 2019. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  7. ^ Kit, Borys (July 13, 2018). "Jamie Foxx in Talks to Join Michael B. Jordan in Legal Drama 'Just Mercy'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 23, 2019. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  8. ^ Galuppo, Mia (August 8, 2018). "Brie Larson Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Just Mercy'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 23, 2019. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  9. ^ Galuppo, Mia (August 17, 2018). "O'Shea Jackson Jr. Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Just Mercy' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 23, 2019. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  10. ^ Kroll, Justin (August 27, 2018). "Michael B. Jordan's 'Just Mercy' Adds Tim Blake Nelson (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Archived from the original on August 1, 2019. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  11. ^ ""Just Mercy" Movie Films in Montgomery". Equal Justice Initiative. August 30, 2018. Archived from the original on July 23, 2019. Retrieved August 31, 2018.
  12. ^ Butler, Karen (September 7, 2018). "Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx start filming 'Just Mercy' in Atlanta". United Press International. Retrieved March 23, 2022.
  13. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (October 1, 2018). "'SNL's Beck Bennett, D'Arcy Carden Star In 'Greener Grass'; 'Just Mercy' Adds Dominic Bogart & Hayes Mercure". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on April 18, 2019. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  14. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (October 2, 2018). "Karan Kendrick Cast In 'Just Mercy'; 'Doctor Sleep' Adds Jocelin Donahue". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on August 22, 2019. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  15. ^ Lang, Brent (July 23, 2019). "Toronto Film Festival: 'Joker,' 'Ford v Ferrari,' 'Hustlers' Among Big Premieres". Variety. Archived from the original on July 23, 2019. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  16. ^ McClintock, Pamela (July 16, 2019), "Michael B. Jordan's 'Just Mercy' Lands Year-End Awards Release; 'Sesame Street' Officially Pushed" Archived July 16, 2019, at the Wayback Machine, The Hollywood Reporter.
  17. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (April 20, 2018). "Warner Bros Dates Melissa McCarthy Comedy 'Superintelligence' & Michael B. Jordan's 'Just Mercy'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on March 30, 2019. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  18. ^ "Just Mercy" Archived January 17, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, Box Office Mojo.
  19. ^ "Just Mercy (2019) - Financial Information". Archived from the original on December 25, 2019. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  20. ^ "Warner Bros. makes 'Just Mercy' free to rent for 'systemic racism' education". New York Post. Associated Press. June 2, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  21. ^ Gruenwedel, Erik (June 19, 2020). "Media Play News: TNT, TBS, and truTV Airing 'Black Panther', 'Just Mercy' Special Combo Event to Promote Social Justice". Media Play News. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  22. ^ Hipes, Patrick; Petski, Denise (June 19, 2020). "Juneteenth Programming Lineup: 'Black Panther' & 'Just Mercy, HBO's 'Watchmen', Apple's 'The Banker', FX's Atlanta', 'Selma' & More". Deadline. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  23. ^ "Just Mercy (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Archived from the original on January 14, 2020. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  24. ^ "Just Mercy Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on January 15, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
  25. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (January 12, 2020). "'1917' Strong With $36M+, But 'Like A Boss' & 'Just Mercy' Fighting Over 4th With $10M; Why Kristen Stewart's 'Underwater' Went Kerplunk With $6M+". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on January 12, 2020. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  26. ^ McClintock, Pamela (December 25, 2019). "Box Office: 'Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker' Unwraps Huge $32M on Christmas Day". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 26, 2019. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  27. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (December 29, 2019). "'1917', 'Just Mercy' And 'Clemency' Open Strong In Limited Debuts Over Busy Holiday Weekend – Specialty Box Office". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on December 29, 2019. Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  28. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (January 19, 2020). "'Bad Boys For Life' So Great With $100M+ Worldwide; 'Dolittle' Still A Dud With $57M+ Global – Box Office Update". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on January 20, 2020. Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  29. ^ Gardner, Chris (November 26, 2019). "'The Two Popes' Leads Nominees for AARP the Magazine's Movies for Grownups Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 2, 2019. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  30. ^ Goldberg, Matt (December 2, 2019). "'Parasite' Wins Big with the Atlanta Film Critics Circle". Collider. Archived from the original on December 3, 2019. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  31. ^ Morales, Wilson (December 11, 2019). "20th Annual Black Reel Awards - Nominees Announced". Black Film. Archived from the original on December 13, 2019. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  32. ^ "NAACP | NOMINEES ANNOUNCED FOR 51st NAACP IMAGE AWARDS". NAACP. January 9, 2020. Archived from the original on June 26, 2021. Retrieved July 17, 2021.

External links[edit]