Mickey Hardaway (dir. Marcellus Cox)

By: Adam Freed

Some wounds are just too deep to heal.  Despite this knowledge it is with steadfast courage that filmmakers will continue to wade into the murky waters of those topics too ill suited for polite conversation. Independent cinema has long maximized its impact by capitalizing on its freedoms from oversight, and tackling the grittier thematic fringes of society’s woes.  The impact of which forces into consciousness a thematic heft of which many major studios have attempted to avoid.  Amongst the most recent of these noble filmmakers is writer and director Marcellus Cox, who with a courageous spirit, tackles the oppressive and perpetual nature of adolescent trauma in his film Mickey Hardaway.  Named after the film’s central character, Cox’s drama nobly climbs the mountain of anguish caused by childhood abuse in his memorable feature length debut.

Told with devastating impact in a tactful non-linear fashion, Mickey Hardaway provides just enough detail for audiences to fill in the pieces of the intentionally disjointed timeline of Mickey’s life, to evoke sympathy from most, and empathy from those whose journey’s bear an unfortunately resemblance to the atrocities faced by the young Mickey.  Never short of well-meaning individuals (teachers and guidance counselors) in support of his dreams to become a successful artist, Hardaway’s undeniable talent propels him just close enough to touch his dreams.  These acts of kindness deceptively devolve into unintended cruelties as the anchor of his generational trauma makes maintaining his hold on the brass ring feel impossible.  Despite his prowess as an artist, Mickey fights to outrun the relentlessness of the demons that haunt him.


One of the greatest indicators of filmmaking prowess is one’s ability to maximize the impact of a production despite budgetary constraints.  To this end Mr. Cox conducts his cast with a precision that results in a handful of compelling performances.  Mickey Hardaway, played by an apt Rashad Hunter, wears the emotional burden of the film and conveys his pain through his gaze as effectively as his dialogue.  Two dynamic supporting roles bolster the depth of Mickey’s story.  First is that of his well meaning therapist played invitingly by Stephen Cofield Jr.  It is due to the convincing nature of Cofield's performance that audiences can begin to envision a future free of tumult for the titular Mickey.  Juxtaposing the warm embrace of therapy is the angular and vicious performance of David Chattam, who as the senior Hardaway is the manifestation of the belief that “Hurt people, hurt people.”  As Randall Hardaway, Chattam offers little room for breath under the weight of his dream crushing abuse, a devastating depiction to say the least. 

Many victims of generational abuse are far too broken by their tormentors, too calloused by the world to find salvation at the culmination of their various stories.  For Marcellus Cox, if his independent lightning rod, Mickey Hardaway, can illuminate the path to salvation for even one amongst the countless traumatized Americans, the difficulty of the mountainous climb must have been worth the struggle.  Much like former independent darlings Rian Johnson (Brick) and Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), both of whom sharpened their thematic focus outside of the studio construct, Marcellus Cox is a filmmaker of note, as Mickey Hardaway is very likely to become the film that turns the up-an- coming director into one of Hollywood’s reliable voices. 

Target Score: 8/10 - Partially hidden from view in the sea of big budget streamers and studio fare, exists the small but mighty sting of independent film.  Newly minted amongst the best that the indie circuit has to offer, is Mickey Hardaway, a thematically rich and emotionally weighty study of the impact of childhood trauma.  On the strength of his debut feature length film, writer and director Marcellus Cox instantly becomes a name worth remembering.