Cadillac Records is the story of a man that broke down the boundaries by teaming with great artists based on their talent, not their skin colour.
Leonard Chess (Adrian Brody) was a Jewish immigrant from Poland that understood money made life better. He opened a blues club first but quickly realized the money was in the music, not the booze. Leonard's first producing credit was on Muddy Waters' (Jeffrey Wright) first album. He opened Chess Records and was the man that introduced the world to Little Walter (Columbus Short), Howlin' Wolf (Eamonn Walker), Chuck Berry (Mos Def) and Etta James (Beyoncé Knowles); even the Rolling Stones recorded there, having taken their name from a Muddy Waters tune. In the '50s, status was measured by the car you drove; so when an artist made it, Leonard would buy him or her a Cadillac. Thus, Chess Records was nicknamed Cadillac Records.
The acting in this film is magnificent, with each actor becoming their character: Brody portrays a man that understands and appreciates good music but is not about to get down to it; Wright is a man struggling with being a good husband and indulging in more success and money than he'd ever dreamed; Short is filled with anger, which eventually leads him down a dark path; Walker has an incredible look and intimidating presence; Beyoncé digs deep to bring Etta's troubles to life; and Mos Def is outstanding as the man of passive aggressive sarcasm.
Of course, the other star of this film is the music. Featuring some of the artists' biggest hits, the soundtrack strikes the audience with one great sound after another – and each featured artist has a different sound. The actors' performance of the music is also incredible and lends itself to the soundtrack's power. Notable moments come from Short’s "My Babe,” Walker’s "Smokestack Lightnin’," and Beyoncé’s "I’d Rather Go Blind."
The DVD special features include commentary by writer/director Darnell Martin, deleted scenes and two featurettes. The deleted scenes are interesting moments not missed from the final cut but still add a little something to the overall picture. “Playing Chess” is the “making of” documentary comprised of interviews with Martin, cast and producers; and “Once Upon a Blues” focuses on recreating 1950's Chicago. The commentary provides some nice insight and anecdotes regarding the real-life counterparts to the scenes.