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Cadillac Records

Muddies the Waters, but in a Good Way
By CHRIS WANGLER  |  December 12, 2008
3.0 3.0 Stars

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Instead of telling the whole story of Chicago's Chess Records, Cadillac Records writer/director Darnell Martin lets the music speak for itself while tiptoeing around the label's most contentious issue: did founder Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody), a Jewish immigrant, deal paternalistically with the likes of Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and Chuck Berry? Chess often doled out Cadillacs (hence the title) in lieu of royalties, but he also championed the "race music" that was later repackaged as rock and roll by the British Invasion.

His shifty "family" relationship with Muddy Waters (a magnificent Jeffrey Wright) reveals less of the man than of the segregated heyday of Chicago blues. Brody is too smooth for the role of a workaholic with a crush on Etta James (Beyoncé), but the ensemble, along with Martin's smart script, convey a volatile mix of threat, eccentricity, and accidental genius.

An entertaining and insightful little film.

CADILLAC RECORDS| 108MINUTES | BOSTON COMMON + FENWAY + FRESH POND + CHESTNUT HILL + SUBURBS

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