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Cadillac Records


Stars: Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright, Beyonce Knowles, Gabrielle Union, Columbus Short, Mos Def, Cedric the Entertainer, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Eamonn Walker, Eric Bogosian, Jay O Sanders

Director: Darnell Martin

Although its characters are obsessed with Cadillacs, this musical biopic should more accurately be called Chess Records, since (even if it begins in 1941), it centres on Polish emigre Leonard Chess (Brody), who, although white, sought to bring black music to Everytown America - and make himself a fortune at the same time.

Chess's first acquisition is blues legend Muddy Waters (Wright) who had left his life as a sharecropper in 1941 to sing and play guitar in Chicago. Chess Records soon prospers - as do Leonard and Muddy, the latter spending money on women to the despair of his long-standing partner Geneva (Union) - but the crossover breakthrough only comes in 1955, courtesy of the electric Chuck Berry (well impersonated by Mos Def) and later, with the scorching blues style of the drug-addicted Etta James (Knowles), to whom the happily-married Leonard finds himself attrracted.

Knowles' portrait of James represents her best screen work - in both singing and acting departments - to date, but the film itself is a thing of (good) bits and pieces, and dialogue that is too often hard to follow, especially in a crucial exchange between Brody and Wright near the end. As a colourful portrait of blues' and rock 'n' roll's formative years, though, it's to be mildly recommended.

David Quinlan

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Sony (TriStar). Colour by deluxe.
109 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 16 Feb 2009