Biograpical epic of Malcolm X, the legendary African American leader. Born Malcolm Little, his father (a Garveyite Baptist minister) was killed by the Ku Klux Klan. Malcolm became a gangster, and while in jail discovered the Nation of Islam writings of Elijah Muhammad. He preaches the teachings when let out of jail, but later on goes on a pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, there he converts to the original Islamic religion and becomes a Sunni Muslim and changes his name to El-Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz. He is assassinated on February 21, 1965 and dies a Muslim martyr. Written by
When Denzel Washington took the role of Malcolm X in the play "When the Chickens Come Home to Roost," which dealt with the relationship between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, he admitted he knew little about Malcolm X and had not yet read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Washington prepared by reading books and articles by and about Malcolm X and he went over hours of tape and film footage of speeches. The play opened in 1981 and earned Washington a warm review by Frank Rich, who was, at the time, the chief theater critic of The New York Times. Upon being cast in this film, he interviewed people who knew Malcolm X, among them Betty Shabazz and two of his brothers. Although they had different upbringings, Washington tried to focus on what he had in common with his character; Washington was close to Malcolm X's age when he was assassinated, both men were from large families, both of their fathers were ministers, and both were raised primarily by their mothers. See more »
Malcolm and Betty's ice cream sodas go from half empty to full again between shots. See more »
In the name of Allah the merciful, all praises due to Allah, Lord of all the worlds. The one God to whom praise is due forever. The one who came to us in the person of Master Fard Muhammad and raised up the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Amen.
How do you feel?
Who do we want to hear?
Are we gonna bring him on? Yes, we gonna bring him on. Well let us hear from our minister, Minister Malcolm X. Let us bring him on with a round of ...
See more »
After the Thank Allah seperate special thanks, there is another one that says: "Thank Jesus for Aretha Franklin and Arrested Devleopment." See more »
There's two ways to look at this movie: as an entertaining evening
filler, a roller-coaster of a movie, it's very successful -- strange,
and no mean feat, for a biopic about a radical black leader from
yesteryear. As a biography however, which is supposed to tell you the
truth about a person, I think it's simply a piece of blatant
propaganda. I see it as a lost chance to do the man Malcolm X Little
justice, and also to show up the critical aspects of his persona.
The acting is great, I particularly enjoyed Angela Bassett as Malcolm
X's wife Betty Shabazz, as well as director Spike Lee playing Malcolm's
zoot era friend, the wily Shorty. Overall this movie is well made, as
can be expected of a great director such as Spike Lee.
OK, let's focus on content, then. Malcolm X wasn't Martin Luther King,
but this movie portrays him like he had been King's ghetto version. In
his autobiography, Malcolm X describes himself as having started as a
street thug, although one who was driven to this life by racism, who
was transformed in prison to a black minister and leader. An
alternative but possibly more enlightened way to describe his career
would be that he took up the same profession as his father, that of a
black separatist minister (his father had followed Marcus Garvey,
Malcolm followed Elijah Muhammad instead).
Another fact that the movie didn't bring out is that the Nation Of
Islam are no Muslims. They were an idiosyncratic black American sect
which borrowed some formal aspects from Islam, and sold Elijah Muhammad
instead of adhering to his prophet namesake. One interesting question
to ask yourself about Malcolm X is, when did he figure out that the NOI
were about as halal as ham hock? If he really only became wise to the
game after Muhammad had kicked him out, that would have made him seem a
bit dim in the intellectual department (and I don't think that he was
anything but sharp). But if he found out before then why didn't he
leave the sect by himself? Does anyone really buy his magic
transformation into a proper Muslim and non-racist on the hadj he went
on after he had been forced to leave NOI? In the movie, Malcolm starts
to doubt Elijah Muhammad pretty abruptly when he finds out that he has
fathered children with his -- very much younger -- secretaries. This is
shown melodramatically where the mothers are dressed up in their full
freaky NOI costume, have their darling children playing around their
feet and profess that they are only worried about their toddlers'
wellbeing, i. e. present the picture of purity. I didn't buy that
either, neither in the film nor in Malcolm X's life.
There are simply some aspects this movie should have addressed, some
questions it should have raised. Instead it "cultivates" and adulates
Malcom X. Apart from being a fierce speaker and writer, what actual
plans did Malcolm X have? Did he implement them, did they work out, did
they fail? How serious was he about separating the races, or was that
just rhetorics? Did he actually further or hinder the Civil Rights
movement? Didn't he, especially in the light of Obama, fail quite badly
by his own standards? One scene I didn't buy at all was when Malcolm
liberates a black man from racist police imprisonment. He threatens the
officer in charge by telling him to look out of the window, through
which we see a thin row of NOI goons standing before the police
precinct. Somehow the captain freaks at the sight of 20 dudes in suits
and ties and immediately gives in. In the following scene, Malcolm
gives them a sign and they turn around like robots and march off. Wow,
that's how the NOI fought? Too bad Martin Luther King hadn't thought of
that. Although I'd advise anyone not to don suit and tie and descend on
the local police outpost yet. Spike Lee feeds us off with simple
Spike Lee also tells us quite unambiguously that Malcolm's father was
murdered by the KKK, where this is at best highly speculative.
Another point: were the NOI with their guru, their uniforms, their sex
separation and their bodyguards not perhaps a pretty scary outfit?
Scary not only in "the KKK had finally met their match"-sense but more
as in "made the KKK seem like a regular bunch of guys with a hood
fixation, and the John Birch Society like a bunch of hippies"? Just a
Then in the final scene Spike Lee serves up a "I'm Malcom X" scene
which wouldn't have looked out of place in a Stalinist propaganda film.
Malcolm X once said that all his achievements should be blamed on
Allah, and only his failings on himself. Spike Lee should have taken
his word. If you want to learn more about Malcolm X, then even his
autobiography is a better choice.
13 of 20 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?