Cadillac Records

Rated 3.0

Writer-director Darnell Martin hurries through the Chess Records origin myth, stacking up standard movie-bio highlight moments of inspiration, opportunity, fortune, misfortune, drugs, sex, vanity, violence and tragic too-early death, and scoring them with the great proto-rock ’n’ roll of mid-’50s Chicago R&B. It helps that every performance is remarkable: Jeffrey Wright’s Muddy Waters, Mos Def’s Chuck Berry and Adrien Brody’s Leonard Chess, especially, but also Columbus Short’s Little Walter, Eamonn Walker’s Howlin’ Wolf, executive producer Beyoncé Knowles’ Beyoncé-esque but bewitching Etta James and Cedric the Entertainer’s sometimes overdone Willie Dixon. Maybe what Cadillac Records needed was to be a miniseries instead of a movie—that is, a full-blown arrangement, with commensurate budget and production values, the same phenomenal cast, free-range rights to all the essential music (well, this is a fantasy, after all) and proper solo time for everybody who has the chops.