Film Critics Review ‘Malcolm X’ With PM-Malcolm X-Movie
Undated (AP) _ Excerpts from the reviews of ″Malcolm X″
New York Times’ Vincent Canby: ″Spike Lee has attempted the impossible and almost brought it off. His new ‘Malcolm X’ is not exactly the equal, or even the equivalent, of the book, but it’s an ambitious, tough, seriously considered biographical film that, with honor, eludes easy characterization. ...
″In Denzel Washington it ... has a fine actor who does for ‘Malcolm X’ what Ben Kingsley did for ‘Gandhi.’ Mr. Washington not only looks the part, but he also has the psychological heft, the intelligence and the reserve to give the film the dramatic excitement that isn’t always apparent in the screenplay.″
Los Angeles Times’ Kenneth Turan: ″The unexpected aspect of this forceful, purposeful work by a director with a reputation for being an in-your-face polemicist and provacateur is just how careful and classical a film it finally is. ...
″With every carefully composed frame, ‘Malcolm X’ tries with remarkable success to be a grand epic for people of color, an African-American counterpart to ‘Gandhi’ that aims to move a controversial thinker and doer who has not been much revered outside of the black community into the heart of the American mainstream.″
The Washington Post’s Rita Kempley: ″An engrossing mosaic of history, myth and sheer conjecture, this ambitious epic manages to sustain itself for 3 hours 21 minutes, and also overcomes an early frivolity of tone and Lee’s intrusiveness to achieve a stature befitting its subject. ...
″Lee, whose enormous affection for his hero suffuses his work, nevertheless resists the temptation to sanitize Malcolm as Richard Attenborough did Gandhi. The civil rights leader, as eloquently portrayed by Denzel Washington, emerges as an immensley likable human being - a onetime black separatist who overcame his own prejudices.″
USA Today’s Mike Clark: ″Lee has toned down his usual funky-spunky style - even in ‘Malcolm’s’ ‘sin’ portion, a ’40s panorama of numbers-running, thievery, hot sex and hot music. ...
″Overlong at 3 1/4 hours but capped by a smashing showman’s finale, ‘Malcolm X’ conveys its subject’s magnetism and lifelong evolution, while forever synergizing its lead performer and his role. If this isn’t the bottom line of all screen biography, nothing is.″
Dolores Barclay, AP Arts Editor: ″We walk away from this film with little emotion. Certainly, the dramatization of Malcolm’s life should evoke some feeling - rage, sympathy, hope, anger, frustration, pride, sorrow. Snippets of the film should remain burned in our minds or our hearts.
″But Lee’s movie, despite good intentions, does not inspire any visceral realities. It simply is too superficial, too theatrically poised without the hard-edge that could have made it a masterpiece.″