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Cadillac Records
Adrien Brody and Jeffrey Wright




Overview -
CADILLAC RECORDS is a writer/director Darnell Martin's riveting ensemble film depicting the rise, in the early-‘50s to late-‘60s, of key musical figures at the crossroads between blues, rhythm & blues, and rock & roll. Based on the true story of the original Chicago-based purveyors of electric blues, Chess Records, it centers on two men: Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody), a Polish-Jewish nightclub owner; and Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), a transplanted Mississippi sharecropper with sights set on musical stardom. After hearing Waters's electrified Delta blues during a tussle at his nightclub, Chess decides to pool his resources into releasing what were then called "race records." Soon a coterie of label talent, from Little Walter and Howlin' Wolf, to Chuck Berry and Etta James, help to propel the fledgling label to the top of the charts--with each hit-maker rewarded by Chess with a shiny new Cadillac automobile. While sometimes playing loose with some minor historical points, the film truly hits the mark with its attention to visual detail, from costumes and cars, down to vintage recording equipment, all of it is a feast for period buffs. But what truly makes CADILLAC RECORDS captivating are the exceptional musical performances of Beyonce Knowles (Etta James) and Mos Def (Chuck Berry), two of the finest musicians-turned-actors of their time. Ultimately, CADILLAC RECORDS' most potent message may be the boundless ability that much of this music had in transcending the unsettling realities facing blacks of the time. From Payola (the practice of bribing disc jockeys to play "race records") and segregation, to white performers pilfering songs written by blacks, all of it is handled with admirable aplomb in this enjoyable, often edifying, film.

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Overview

CADILLAC RECORDS is a writer/director Darnell Martin's riveting ensemble film depicting the rise, in the early-‘50s to late-‘60s, of key musical figures at the crossroads between blues, rhythm & blues, and rock & roll. Based on the true story of the original Chicago-based purveyors of electric blues, Chess Records, it centers on two men: Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody), a Polish-Jewish nightclub owner; and Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), a transplanted Mississippi sharecropper with sights set on musical stardom. After hearing Waters's electrified Delta blues during a tussle at his nightclub, Chess decides to pool his resources into releasing what were then called "race records." Soon a coterie of label talent, from Little Walter and Howlin' Wolf, to Chuck Berry and Etta James, help to propel the fledgling label to the top of the charts--with each hit-maker rewarded by Chess with a shiny new Cadillac automobile. While sometimes playing loose with some minor historical points, the film truly hits the mark with its attention to visual detail, from costumes and cars, down to vintage recording equipment, all of it is a feast for period buffs. But what truly makes CADILLAC RECORDS captivating are the exceptional musical performances of Beyonce Knowles (Etta James) and Mos Def (Chuck Berry), two of the finest musicians-turned-actors of their time. Ultimately, CADILLAC RECORDS' most potent message may be the boundless ability that much of this music had in transcending the unsettling realities facing blacks of the time. From Payola (the practice of bribing disc jockeys to play "race records") and segregation, to white performers pilfering songs written by blacks, all of it is handled with admirable aplomb in this enjoyable, often edifying, film.

Main Cast & Crew

Darnell Martin - Director
Adrien Brody
Jeffrey Wright
Beyonce Knowles
Columbus Short
Gabrielle Union
Mos Def
Emmanuelle Chriqui
Cedric the Entertainer
Tammy Blanchard
Eamonn Walker

 

Details

DVD Format
  • Format: DVD (Widescreen)
  • Run Time: 109
  • Color Format: Color
  • UPC: 043396294660
  • Genre: Drama
  • Rating: R (MPAA) (for pervasive language and some sexuality)
  • Release Date: March 2009

Related Categories:
Movies > Dramas
Movies > Musicals

Related Keywords:
True Story
Blues
Rhythm And Blues
Music (General)
Theatrical Release
Folk Music
Blues Music
Music
Singers
1950s
Blues Singers
1960s
Musicians

 

Movie Reviews

More Details

Reviews:
"Knowles captures James' emotional vulnerability and is substantially better than she was in DREAMGIRLS....She shines most when singing." - 12/05/2008 USA Today


"Mos Def makes a terrific Berry, all flash and confidence, and Wright offers a memorably soulful take on Waters..." - 12/05/2008 Los Angeles Times


"[A] rollicking and insightful celebration of Chicago blues in its hectic golden age....Enriched by the skill and verve of a prodigious ensemble..." - 12/05/2008 New York Times


"The casting throughout is successful. Columbus Short suggests the building inner torments of Little Walter, and Cedric the Entertainer plays the singer-songwriter Willie Dixon as a creator and synthesizer." - 12/05/2008 Chicago Sun-Times


"Wright plays Waters as an elegant tomcat in boxy suits....Then there's Chuck Berry -- played by Mos Def, who nails the legend's apple-cheeked charisma as well as his saucy grooves." -- Grade: B+ - 12/12/2008 Entertainment Weekly, p.50


3 stars out of 5 -- "Beyonce is luminous as the driven diva. Also excellent is Mos Def as an up-for-anything Chuck Berry." - 03/01/2009 Total Film


3 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he music kicks up a storm, and the real revelation is Knowles, who burns a hole in the screen as sexy, drug-addled siren Etta..." - 03/01/2009 Empire


"[Beyonce Knowles] performs dynamic versions of Etta James classics and delivers the dramatic goods as the troubled and badly addicted young woman who lives the blues she sings." - 11/25/2008 Hollywood Reporter


"Jeffrey Wright is superb as Muddy Waters. Columbus Short is scarily mercurial as Little Walter." - 06/04/2010 Wall Street Journal


"The film has a harder edge than its contemporaries, and the musical performances are particularly sensational." - 04/10/2020 The Atlantic

 

BAM Customer Reviews