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Leonard Chess owns a bar on the rough South Side of Chicago in 1947 and hires a blues combo. Chess is fascinated by the sound of the music and arranges a recording session. The early recordings start moving up the R&B charts and receives heavy play.
Drama Musical - This is a music-filled drama based on the true story of Chess Records
and recording artists Etta James, Muddy Waters, and Chuck Berry.
Sexual content and constant strong language make this film
inappropriate for younger viewers. Those drawn in by Beyonce may be
disappointed by her fairly limited screen time.
Adrien Brody THE DARJEELING LIMITED, HOLLYWOODLAND, KING KONG Jeffrey Wright QUANTUM OF SOLACE, THE INVASION, CASINO ROYALE Beyonce Knowles DREAMGIRLS, THE PINK PANTHER Gabrielle Union MEET DAVE, THE PERFECT HOLIDAY Columbus Short QUARANTINE, STOMP THE YARD, ACCEPTED, WHITEOUT Cedric The Entertainer MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA, TALK TO ME Director: Darnell Martin PRISON SONG
PROFANITY: Well over 30 F-words, 29 S-words, 5 GD's, many others. SEX/NUDITY: Sex with related nudity. VIOLENCE: Beatings, shootings. DRUGS/ALCOHOL: Alcohol, tobacco, heroin. ACTION: None. COMEDY: Kid humor; some wisecracks.
Berardinelli, Internet CriticFull Review Above Average There are plenty of small pleasures to be found throughout Darnell Martin's feature, but a compelling storyline featuring three-dimensional characters is not among them.
Roger EbertFull Review Good The film is a fascinating record of the evolution of a black musical style, and the tangled motives of the white men who had an instinct for it.
USA TodayFull Review Above Average Though the music in Cadillac Records hums along powerfully, the film could use a tune-up.
Note: The rating
above is our interpretation of what the critic would give this movie based on
their review. We are not affiliated with these critic's in any way.
The story of how the blues became popular and gave birth to rock and roll begins at a dingy bar on the rough South Side of Chicago in 1947, where an ambitious young Polish émigré, bar owner Leonard Chess (Academy Award-winner ADRIEN BRODY), hires a talented but undisciplined blues combo that includes quiet and thoughtful guitar prodigy Muddy Waters (JEFFREY WRIGHT) and impulsive and colorful harmonica player Little Walter (COLUMBUS SHORT). Fascinated by the sound of the music – and eager to cash in on the record burgeoning record business – Chess arranges a recording session for Waters. Waters' early recordings start moving up the R+B charts and receiving heavy play.
Chess treats his musicians like family – he buys them a Cadillac when they record their first hit record – although the line between business and personal sometimes causes conflict with his increasingly talented and successful stable of artists. After backing up Muddy on his early recordings, Little Walter becomes a star in his own right, but his quick temper and loud manner often run him afoul of friends and the law. He also finds that the only woman he can talk to is Muddy's girl, Geneva (GABRIELLE UNION), who struggles to remain loyal despite Muddy's poorly concealed affairs. Big Willie Dixon (CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER), a songwriter and bandleader, also is a key member of the Chess Records family, as is Howlin' Wolf (EAMONN WALKER), an intense and proud blues singer who develops a musical rivalry with Muddy.
But it's not until 1955 when a Chess artist finally "crosses over” into the realm of mainstream ("white”) America – a skinny guy from St. Louis named Chuck Berry (MOS DEF), whose dynamic "duck walk” and catchy, country-tinged tunes mark the birth of rock-and-roll. When Berry is arrested and jailed at the height of his career, Chess finds another talented performer to cross over – singer Etta James (BEYONCÉ KNOWLES), an emotionally scarred young woman whose vulnerability tempts Chess' loyalty and concern in unexpected ways.
As rock-and-roll grows more popular, the Chess artists find themselves revered by a new generation of musicians, but they have also each earned and lost a small fortune on booze, women and the high life, and their addictions begin to take their toll. Even as tragedy befalls, their music and their spirit remain strong: as the sixties wind down and Leonard Chess gets out of the record business, the blues live on.