Cadillac Records tells the story of Leonard Chess, and his legendary Chicago record label that launched the careers of, amongst others, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and Etta James.
A film for music lovers, Cadillac Records strength lies in its genuinely interesting story and simply superb soundtrack. The film itself is loosely based on the true story of Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody) and his initial discovery of Blues legend Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright) and the establishment of his record label, Chess Records.
The film follows Muddy’s career as ‘race music’ becomes ‘rock and roll’ thanks to the likes of Chuck Berry. Leonard gives his successful artists a Cadillac each, hence Cadillac Records.
The film covers all the sex, violence and drugs of 50s and 60s Chicago as the world witnesses the birth of rock and roll. From the struggle to get Muddy’s music played on provincial radio stations across the USA, to Chuck Berry’s explosion onto the scene, Cadillac Records is a film that will entertain music lovers and ignite an interest in those who aren’t familiar with its story.
The Blu-ray transfer is a great one, it looks superb. The film has a warm look to it, with the fashions and the cars looking superb in HD, but without a doubt this film’s main selling point is the soundtrack. It’s presented in Dolby 5.1 True HD and it deserves to be watched with the volume up, with the likes of I’m a Man, At Last and No Particular Place To Go providing the film with its biggest star, the music.
That’s not to say the acting is below par, quite the opposite. Adrien Brody gives an assured performance as Leonard Chess, a man, who at the height of the racial tensions that ran through America in the 50s, wasn’t afraid to break down the ludicrous racial barriers that existed in The Land of The Free. Jeffrey Wright is first rate as Waters, carrying the swagger and charisma the real Muddy had. Mos Def is also noteworthy as Chuck Berry. It’s clear that they’ve looked at the people they were playing and were keen to carry the real characters over to the film.
However I can’t quite say the same of Beyonce Knowle’s Etta James. I didn’t feel she was really getting into the character, but then the former Destiny’s Child songstress isn’t exactly noted for her acting prowess. It almost feels like she’s here to give the movie a big name to hang its PR on.
Extras As per usual, there’s a making of feature, deleted scenes and directors commentary. There’s also a Jukebox feature allowing you to compile a play list from the film’s soundtrack. BD Live content is also promised but try as I might, I couldn’t get any additional content. It just seemed to time out as when I tried it on my PS3.
The extras are a poor crop, truth be told. It would’ve been great to see some performances from the artists depicted in film, but sadly there’s nothing as imaginative as that included here.
Cadillac Records is a great film, and one that tells a fascinating story, even if it does play fast and loose with the history of what happened in reality. A first class soundtrack, combined with some great performances makes it a really enjoyable film and the package is only let down by a set of mediocre extras. As a Blu-ray the picture and sound is faultless and it looks great.
As a fan of the blues, I’d recommend this film to anyone interested in music and its history. If it’s not the kind of film you’d normally pick up, try it. It’s well worth a watch.
Cadillac Records is available on Blu-ray now.