JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
The film starts with an interviewer speaking to William “Bill” O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield), asking him what he would tell his son about the work he has done. What follows is footage of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s, featuring clips of other famous figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) speaks to his agents and declares the Black Panther Party a terrorist organization, and he has his sights set on the chairman of the Illinois chapter, Frederick Allan Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).
Chicago, 1968 – Bill is a petty criminal who pretends to be an FBI agent as he enters a bar occupied by members of the Crowns gang. After accosting one of the men owning a nice car outside, the men quickly figure that he’s not an agent and they chase Bill outside. Bill manages to steal the car and drive away, only to be stopped by police moments later. Bill is brought to meet FBI Agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons), who says he can serve jail time for grand theft auto and impersonating an agent, or he can give him an opportunity to help them out in exchange for his freedom.
At a Black Panther rally, Fred is brought up to speak to the attendees about the dangers of capitalism, as well as expressing the hope of the Black Panther Party to liberate black folks from the oppression of the law. Everyone is taken by his words, especially a young woman named Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback). She approaches him after the rally to express admiration but also to suggest that he don’t tear down anyone trying to express black pride since he wants to recruit them.
Fred holds a class with other Black Panther recruits, with Bill in attendance. Their plan is to establish a clinic for black people in the neighborhood who cannot otherwise afford or receive proper medical attention. Fred calls Bill out when he is attempting to speak to a young woman in the class, and he is forced to do 20 push-ups. Bill later reports to Mitchell on what he has learned so far, as the FBI is using Bill to get close to Fred in an attempt to take him down. He requests that Mitchell provide him with a car to drive Fred around since he refuses to drive from getting pulled over constantly.
Bill drives Fred and a few other Panthers to a bar to speak to the Crowns, as Fred wants to have a word with their leader. The Crowns in the bar agree to a meeting. Bill later meets with Mitchell again, who claims to be all for Civil Rights, but views Fred and the Panthers as no worse than the KKK.
Bill joins Fred and the Panthers at the Crowns meeting to speak to their leader, Steel (Khris Davis). During the meeting, one of the Crowns, Tex (Mell Bowser), recognizes Bill as the one who tried to carjack him and nearly attacks him until one of the higher-up Crowns smacks him for speaking out of line. At the end of the meeting, Steel gives Fred a rifle for protection. As Bill leaves, a Panther named Judy Harmon (Dominique Thorne) enters his car and holds him at gunpoint, making him drive into an alley. She is suspicious since Tex had mentioned Bill having a badge, and he explains his history with pretending to be an agent to carjack people. He proves it by hotwiring the car they are in.
Fred spends more time with Deborah in her home, leading to them giving in to their mutual feelings, and they begin to kiss.
Fred gathers the recruits to meet with a redneck confederate group called the Young Patriots to speak to their leader, William “Preacherman” Fesperman (Nick Fink), in an attempt to join forces since Fred appeals to the fact that they are also an underprivileged group that the police are against. They next speak to the Puerto Rican group, the Young Lords. Together, the three groups form the Rainbow Coalition. They hold a public rally where Lords leader Jose “Cha Cha” Fernandez (Nicholas Velez) tells the crowd about how one of their own was murdered by an off-duty cop, and they received no justice when they brought him to the other cops. They hope to drive the police presence out of their community, all while a group of cops stands by.
By the summer of 1969, the Rainbow Coalition is in full swing, and Hoover begins his war against Fred. However, Fred is arrested after allegedly stealing ice cream. Membership and donations for the Party start dwindling. Bill goes to meet with other Panthers and is told that a young man named Alex Rackley was a rat among them, and another member, George Sams (Terayle Hill), brags about having killed him. Bill talks to Mitchell about the situation, worrying that someone else in the Party may know that he is also an informant. Mitchell brings this news to a colleague, Leslie Carlyle (Robert Longstreet), learning that Sams was the informant all along. After the Panthers’ office is raided by police, Bill tells the others that Sams must have been the rat, even making a scene there to prove he is faithful to them.
Fred writes to Deborah from prison, stating that he is trying to make the most of his situation there, but based on what he has heard from newer inmates, police have been doing more heavy patrolling through the area.
A young Panther, Jimmy Palmer (Ashton Sanders), walks into a convenience store where cops are accosting black men. Jimmy draws his gun on them and kills one cop while the other one shoots him down.
Police surround the outside of the Black Panther headquarters. Judy and another Panther get ready to fire on them while Bill goes to the roof to provide a distraction. A shootout begins where several cops are shot dead, and the male Panther is shot in the shoulder. When the Panthers run out of ammo, they are forced to surrender. After exiting the building, the cops blow up the office.
Mitchell and Carlyle meet with Hoover regarding the recent event. Hoover asks Mitchell about his sons, then about his infant daughter, asking Mitchell what he would do if she ever brought home a black man. Mitchell is clearly uncomfortable with the question, but Hoover uses it as a way to instill fear of Fred and the Panthers.
Fred is released from prison and sees that Deborah is pregnant with his child. He is brought back to what is left of the office, and the other Panthers warmly welcome him back. However, he is informed that Jimmy was shot, and after he was transferred to the county jail, he died from what Fred believes to be murder by the cops.
Fred speaks before a larger crowd, now including several white folks. He delivers an impassioned speech about being a revolutionary, and that while the authorities may try to silence him, they will not silence what he is going to accomplish. Even Bill finds himself drawn to his words. He also spots Mitchell in the crowd as well.
Fred later finds Deborah’s journal where she has written a poem entitled “Are You a Bad Motherfucker, or Just a Bad Mother?” She expresses her concern about being a bad mother to their child, and she recites the poem to Fred, all while several Panthers, led by Jake Winters (Algee Smith), engage in a shootout with cops in retribution for Jimmy’s death. Fred later meets with Jake’s mother after he is gunned down by the police, and she shares a story about her son.
Bill later meets with Fred and fellow Panther Bobby Rush (Darrell Britt-Gibson) and shows them several packs of C4 that he hopes to use against city hall, but Fred fears retaliation from the police and the deaths of more black youths because of this.
Hoover talks to Mitchell and Carlyle again after learning that Fred’s appeal had been denied and he will be heading back to prison. Hoover then notes that other black figures that were imprisoned only gained more power from their incarceration, so he has an alternate solution to stop Fred’s movement. Mitchell later meets with Bill and suggests that the plan is to kill Fred, even going as far as to threaten Bill with exposing him as a rat to the Panthers.
Bill later goes to a bar where he is approached by another informant named Wayne (Lil Rel Howery). He gives Bill a vial of powder that he intends to use against Fred. Bill thinks it’s poison but Wayne says it’s just to put Fred to sleep. Bill then demands to see his badge, but Wayne instead pulls out a badge containing Bill’s picture and information.
Bill attends a Panther gathering where the group discusses taking their revolution overseas to places like Algeria. He discreetly leaves the powder somewhere that Fred can ingest it, but he has a clear sense of guilt over it. That night, agents raid the place and fire on the Panthers. Deborah tries to wake Fred up but he is deeply unconscious. After she is taken out of the room, two agents enter and execute Fred before arresting the others.
Bill meets with Mitchell afterward and receives his payment, plus keys to a gas station in Maywood so that he can run the business and make honest money. Bill is completely wracked with guilt over Fred’s death, but he takes the money anyway.
The final scene is footage of the real Bill O’Neal answering the question asked to him at the beginning. He acknowledges that what was done is done and that history will judge his actions.
The ending text states that William O’Neal remained an active member of the Black Panther Party and an FBI informant until the early ’70s. He gave his interview for “Eyes on the Prize 2” in 1989, and it aired on Martin Luther King Day in 1990. Bill later committed suicide that night. Fred Hampton was 21 years old at the time of his assassination. Police fired 99 shots during the raid while the Panthers only fired one, and they were still charged with attempted murder. More footage is shown of a Panther rally addressing Fred’s murder and the outcry from the black community. The survivors of the raid, plus Fred’s mother and the mother of another Panther, filed a $47 million lawsuit against the FBI, Chicago Police Department, and State’s Attorney’s Office alleging their planned assassination of Fred. The case was settled for just over $1 million after a 12 year trial. 25 days after Fred’s murder, Deborah Johnson gave birth. She remained a Panther until the Illinois chapter dissolved in 1978. Today, she goes by Akua Njeri and serves on the Advisory Board of the Black Panther Party Cubs. The chairman is hers and Fred’s son, Fred Hampton Jr.
The final shot is an image of Fred Jr with his mother, and an image of his father in the background, followed by footage of the real Fred Hampton reaffirming he is a revolutionary.
In the late 1960's, petty criminal Bill O'Neal is recruited by FBI Agent Roy Mitchell to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to take down chairman Fred Hampton, as FBI director J Edgar Hoover has declared Fred a threat.
Bill gets close to Fred and the Panthers, causing internal conflict over where his allegiance lies. After a number of shootings where both cops and Panthers are killed, Hoover has Mitchell try and organize Fred's assassination by using Bill to slip him a sedative to get him unconscious. The agents raid the Panthers apartment that night, and since Fred is unconscious, they are easily able to execute him in his bed. Bill receives payment but is wracked with guilt over the result of his work.
After providing an interview about his work for PBS, Bill commits suicide in 1990. Fred's mother and the Panthers who survived the raid sue the FBI, Chicago PD, and State's Attorney's Office for $47 million after alleging their involvement in planning Fred's assassination, but only end up with $1 million after a 12 year trial. Fred's girlfriend Deborah Johnson gave birth to their son, Fred Jr, who is in the present day the chairman of the Black Panther Party Cubs.