We here at Cinedelphia are incredibly hyped for BLACK PANTHER this week, and so we’re celebrating all week long, leading up to our review on Thursday night! Find the coverage from all week here!
Alright, so Michael B. Jordan is the man. I love him dearly- he is a once in a generation kind of magnetic actor. You can’t take your eyes off whenever he wanders on screen. He was that way even at age 15, playing corner kid “Wallace” on HBO’s groundbreaking series The Wire. That was way back in 2002- and he has fortunately been one of the rare cases of excellent child actors transitioning beautifully into excellent adult actors. Despite showing serious leading man chops, he can take any kind of role, playing the villain Killmonger in this week’s Black Panther, playing a supporting wingman to best buds in Chronicle and That Awkward Moment, carrying an old franchise into the future in Creed, and humanizing a tragic real life martyr in Fruitvale Station. He can even bounce back after starring in a disastrous Fantastic Four movie.
At age 31, the future is still incredibly bright for Jordan. He has had a quiet few years, with his last acting credits in 2015. Yet he is set to have a big year with Black Panther and a leading role in the HBO Films adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, directed by Ramin Bahrani, acting opposite Michael Shannon. He can do anything he wants, and he should- but if I could handpick one single role that I know he would absolutely blow us all away in, it would be as private eye Easy Rawlins.
Back in 1995, Denzel Washington starred as Rawlins in the neo-noir mystery Devil In A Blue Dress, adapted from Walter Mosley’s novel of the same name. Set in a post war Watts, Los Angeles, Rawlins is Mosley’s Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe- a moral, smart, well meaning investigator who gets roped into conspiracies unwittingly and has to find his way out. Being set in an African American neighborhood, the racial history of Los Angeles, especially as a Great Migration city, was always at the center of Rawlins’ work, and most certainly is in Devil. Despite being a critical favorite, the film was somehow not a commercial hit, even with Washington at the height of his star power back then. In the era of social media, especially when people are hungry for more representation in familiar narratives, it would be incredible to see this story continued onscreen. Mosley has at least ten other Easy Rawlins books that could serve as source material. And who better to take the torch from Denzel in this type of role than Jordan?
Jordan has most excelled playing characters with a past who are judged to high heavens. They are judged for being too angry, too impulsive, too raw, too emotional- you name it. Yet as much as Jordan’s characters never make excuses for themselves, they never never apologize for who they are either. The character of a private eye is kind of like that- a flawed man with a past, trying to stay out of trouble. Yet it often finds him first. It isn’t just brute strength they rely on to get themselves out of trouble- it’s their wit, their intelligence, being able to read the room better than anyone else and always being a step ahead of their enemy. It’s a role that oozes personality, charisma, and pathos. All of which Jordan has in spades.
It would be a matching of one of the best young actors with an existing property that has been a real missed opportunity for Hollywood. Studios have always found ways to make excuses for not having more diverse stories year after year. Countless Rawlins mysteries already exist- So here’s looking at you, Hollywood.
Michael B. Jordan can do whatever he wants, of course. As a white man and as a film blogger half a world away, I have no business telling the man what to do. I will show up regardless to see what he does next, until the end of time. But I do love imagining him riding in a classic car on Wilshire Boulevard, in a post war Los Angeles, on his way somewhere, probably to unearth some dark secret lying in the underbelly of American society.