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Mickey Hardaway Is Arthouse Cinema At It’s Finest



A troubled young man visits a psychiatrist after the effects of years of verbal and physical abuse become too great to handle.

I don’t normally make statements like this, but I do believe in my heart I just witness the next great African American Filmmaker and his name is: Marcellus Cox. Writer/Director Marcellus Cox brings to us today the feature version of his Award-Winning short film, Mickey Hardaway. And it was more than worth the wait. Cox makes his feature debut transition seamlessly, expanding the story of Mickey perfectly to fit the new timeframe and this doesn’t feel like a feature film that started with life as a short one bit. Marcellus Cox’s long term vision when beginning the Mickey Hardaway project has proven to be not only a Indie Achievement but a cinematic one as well. It’s clear he had this goal in mind the whole time, and his tireless efforts to pull it off have proved extremely effective.

What I love the most and I wish more Filmmakers would follow this lead is Cox wasted no time in plunging us straight into Mickey’s universe – into the emotional living hell he wrestles with on a daily. We begin in medias res, finding out almost immediately that this is a story that will end violently. By doing this, Cox forces the viewer to engage in the present of the narrative, rather than hoping or guessing how it will end. The consequences are laid bare from the get go, allowing us to pay closer attention to the steps that lead Mickey to this tipping point. Another feature that works to focus viewers’ attention to details in the use of black and white. The lack of colour makes us pay attention to tonal variation, to texture, to light and shade shot beautifully by Jamil Gooding. It helps to reflect the dismal world Mickey is trapped in, while also reflecting his only escape – drawing. The black and white of the film becomes reminiscent of Mickey’s drawings – the one thing that brings joy and hope into his life.

The biggest villain in his life is his own father, Randall played brilliantly by David Chattam. A violent, aggressive man who does everything in his power to show his son the “reality” of the world. A reality in which art it useless. He physically and verbally abuses Mickey, leaving scars that will last a lifetime. Despite this, there are people in Mickey’s life who care and want to nurture his talent for art. One of these people is Mickey’s teacher, Mr Sweeny(Dennis LA White). Even after Mickey leaves school, Mr Sweeny has a positive impact on his ex-student, helping to land him a job as a cartoonist. Kicked out by his father, he lives in a motel. Despite the crippling student debt incurred from going to study art at university, Mickey is just about managing to get by. That is until he is betrayed by his boss. The injustice of the situation leads Mickey to lash out and costs him his position at the magazine. Despite his struggles, Mickey has a ray of sunshine in his Girlfriend Grace performed amazingly by newcomer Ashley Parchment. She brings a light into Mickey’s life that he has perhaps never known.

But as Mickey recounts his story to his therapist Dr. Cameron Harden performed with such wisdom, truthfulness and maturity by Stephen Cofield Jr, it’s clear as day things have still declined in his life, leading him to start drinking. Unfortunately, due to his upbringing, the only way Mickey knows how to deal with things is through violence. And violence is alienating. He shuns both Grace and Dr. Harden, falling even deeper into a pit of anger and despair. Mickey is so angry at the people who hurt him he is unable to see those who really cared and tried to help him. As a result, he ends up hurting them in a catastrophic way.

The way Mickey Hardaway finish I can assure you is not the ending we in the movie business want nor crave. But it is the ending we need and required to fully understand how these human cycles repeat themselves in real life at such a high manner these days and I’m not talking about on the big or small screen. Marcellus Cox delivers his final(hopefully first of many to come) masterstroke through the character Mr Sweeney who reflects on the tragic story of Mickey Hardaway. The ending leaves the wind knocked out of you.

With a phenomenal cast, lead by Rashad Hunter as Mickey to David Chattam as his father, the film boasts an exceptional display of top-class acting. Rashad Hunter is a young super star talent in the making. He grows from the pleasant young man that Mickey was meant to become into an embittered reflectional monster like his father. Once again David Chattam as the father figure is truly terrifying but that is the ultimate testiment you his performance as a actor, playing against Gayla Johnson as his wife and Mickey’s mother. Gayla Johnson gives one of the most heart breaking but real performances I’ve seen on screen in 2023, she  captures the distress of a woman trying to hold not only her home but family together while it’s burning to the ground right before her, refusing to admit her family has crumbled. Dennis L.A. White as Mr Sweeny is wonderful and one of the few characters we root for, a beautiful soul and human being who trys so hard to preserve the good he sees and witness in Mickey. Dennis carries Mickey with exceptional dignity. The flashback scenes showcasing Mickey’s childhood are a brilliantly done, showcasing the acting of newcomer Blake Hezekiah as young Mickey.


The effort and attention present throughout the film is astounding. The animation of the credits was a particular highlight for me, one that exemplifies the thought that has gone into bringing this story to life. Mickey Hardaway is a heart-breaking story told with the bold, cold harsh truth by a young artistic filmmaker in Marcellus Cox who I believe has a unbelievably bright future ahead of him. He is indeed a Filmmaker I will be having my eyes on going forward.

Writer/Director: Marcellus Cox

Producers: Marcellus Cox & Eric Quincy

Executive Producer: Armando Townsend

Cinematographer: Jamil Gooding

Cast: Rashad Hunter, Ashley Parchment, Stephen Cofield Jr, David Chattam, Dennis LA White, Gayla Johnson, Samuel Whitehill, Sean Alexander James, Charlz Williams

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