Malcolm X (1992)

(On VHS, July 2001) The best bio-fiction entertain as much as it explains, and if Spike Lee’s Malcolm X does a credible job of showing us who, when and why was Malcolm X, it’s not nearly as successful at being entertaining. The problems start right at the beginning, as the first few extravagantly choreographed minutes are visually interesting, but set the self-indulgent tone of much of the film. The story of X advances in spurts, often spending too much time on the wrong things and telling us nothing new. At least two things keep our interest; Denzel Washington’s excellent performance, and Spike Lee’s ability with the camera. Once the story gets going, though, it’s quite engrossing. X was a charismatic and controversial figure, and the film manages to represent him as a good person while not shirking away from the more extreme facets of his personality. There is a touch too much pathos and paranoia in his ultimate downfall, but then again this is a Spike Lee film. Worth a look, even if you don’t think you’ll be interested in the subject.

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