Just Mercy

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Just Mercy
Just Mercy Official Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDestin Daniel Cretton
Produced byGil Netter
Screenplay by
  • Destin Daniel Cretton
  • Andrew Lanham
Based onJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson
Starring
Music byJoel P. West
CinematographyBrett Pawlak
Edited byNat Sanders
Production
company
  • Endeavor Content
  • One Community
  • Participant Media
  • Macro Media
  • Gil Netter Productions
  • Outlier Society
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • September 6, 2019 (2019-09-06) (TIFF)
  • December 25, 2019 (2019-12-25) (United States)
Running time
137 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$25 million[2][3]
Box office$50.4 million[4]

Just Mercy is a 2019 American biographical legal drama film co-written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, and starring Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall, and Brie Larson. It tells the true story of Walter McMillian, who, with the help of young defense attorney Bryan Stevenson, appeals his murder conviction. The film is based on the memoir of the same name, written by Stevenson.[5]

Just Mercy had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 6, 2019, and was theatrically released by Warner Bros. Pictures on December 25, 2019. The film received positive reviews from critics and grossed $50.4 million. Foxx received a nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role at the 26th Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Plot[edit]

In 1989, idealistic young Harvard law graduate Bryan Stevenson travels to Alabama hoping to help fight for poor people who cannot afford proper legal representation. Teaming with Eva Ansley, he founds the Equal Justice Initiative, then travels to a prison to meet its death row inmates. He meets Walter "Johnny D." McMillian, an African-American man who was convicted of the 1986 murder of Ronda Morrison, a white woman. Stevenson looks over the evidence in the case and discovers it hinges entirely on the testimony of convicted felon Ralph Myers, who provided highly self-contradictory testimony in exchange for a lighter sentence in his own pending trial.

Stevenson's first move is to ask prosecutor Tommy Chapman for aid; Chapman dismisses him without even looking at Stevenson's notes. Stevenson then asks McMillian's family friend Darnell Houston to testify that, at the time of the murder, he was elsewhere with a witness who had subsequently falsely corroborated Myers' testimony, evidence which would cause the prosecution's case to fall apart. When Stevenson submits Houston's testimony, police arrest Houston for perjury. While Stevenson is able to get the perjury charges dismissed, Houston is intimidated into refusing to testify in court. Shortly afterwards, Stevenson is intimidated by two sheriff deputies who remove him from his car at gunpoint and illegally search the car. They refuse to tell him why he was pulled over and let him go.

Meanwhile, Stevenson's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of another death row inmate, Herbert Lee Richardson, is denied. Richardson is sentenced to die by electric chair. Promising to be there with him, Stevenson comforts Richardson during his final moments, then bears witness to the chilling execution.

Returning to the McMillian case, Stevenson approaches Myers himself, who eventually admits that his testimony was coerced after police played to his fear of being burned and threatened to have him executed by electric chair. 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 nevertheless refuses to grant a retrial. Distraught, Stevenson vents his frustrations about the case to Ansley. He appears on 60 Minutes to rally public support in favor of McMillian, and then appeals to the Supreme Court of Alabama. The Supreme Court overturns the circuit court's decision, and grants McMillian his retrial. Stevenson then moves to have the charges dismissed entirely. He confronts Chapman at his home and tries to convince him to join him in his motion; Chapman angrily ejects him from his property. The day of the motion comes, and Stevenson appeals to the judge. Chapman agrees to join him in his motion, the case is dismissed, and McMillian is finally reunited with his family.

An epilogue notes that Stevenson and Ansley continue to fight for justice to the present day. Until his death in 2013, McMillian remained friends with Stevenson. A follow-up investigation into Morrison's death confirmed McMillian's innocence and posited that a white man was likely responsible; the case has never been solved. McMillian's former cellmate, Anthony Ray Hinton, remained on death row for 28 years until Stevenson was able to have all charges dropped and Hinton was eventually released in 2015.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

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

Release[edit]

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 expansion was moved up to January 10, 2020, when it opened in 2,375 theaters.[18][19] In response to the killing 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 to support social justice during Juneteenth.[21] The broadcast is presented by Anthony Anderson and featured interviews with Stevenson himself, along with Kamala Harris and W. Kamau Bell.[22]

Reception[edit]

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.[4]

On its first day of limited release, the film made $81,072 from four theaters.[23] It went on to make $105,000 in its opening weekend, December 27–29, for a five-day total of $228,072.[24] The film grossed $425,862 over its 15 days of limited release. It then took in $3.7 million on its first day of wide release, including $800,000 from Thursday-night previews. The film went on to make $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.[26]

Critical response[edit]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 84% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 282 reviews, with an average rating of 7.95/10. 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."[27] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 68 out of 100 based on 50 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[28] 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]

Accolades[edit]

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]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Just Mercy". Toronto International Film Festival. Archived from the original on July 23, 2019. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  2. ^ "Just Mercy (2019)". The Numbers. Archived from the original on December 25, 2019. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  3. ^ "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.
  4. ^ a b "Just Mercy (2019)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on January 8, 2020. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
  5. ^ "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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ ""Just Mercy" Movie Films in Montgomery". Equal Justice Initiative. August 30, 2018. Archived from the original on July 23, 2019. Retrieved August 31, 2018.
  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. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 25, 2019. Retrieved January 16, 2020.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ Press, Associated (June 2, 2020). "Warner Bros. makes 'Just Mercy' free to rent for 'systemic racism' education". New York Post. 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. ^ 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.
  24. ^ 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.
  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. ^ 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.
  27. ^ "Just Mercy (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Archived from the original on January 14, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
  28. ^ "Just Mercy Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on January 15, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 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 January 11, 2020. Retrieved January 9, 2020.

External links[edit]