A scene from “Mickey Hardaway.” (Courtesy Photo)

Marcellus Cox is the writer-director behind “Mickey Hardaway.”  After reviewing his film, it’s clear as day that Cox has the potential to climb up the ladder and become one of those top-tier directors.

His knack for setting up shots is praiseworthy, and the way he chooses how to frame things is pretty darn interesting. But here’s where my main concern comes in – the story’s kind of missing that deep punch.

Now, let’s talk about the writing. I get it. The struggle is absolutely real. As a fellow writer, I completely get how challenging storytelling can be.

The film is actually based on Cox’s own short film and it throws a spotlight on the whole aftereffect of domestic abuse. At the same time, it’s delving into this whole exploration of African American masculinity.

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At its core, the story follows this guy, Mickey Hardaway, played by Rashad Hunter, who’s an artist dealing with some serious therapy stuff. He’s facing head-on the awful abuse he had to go through, thanks to his father’s (David Chattam) oppressive ways during his growing-up years.

Then there’s Grace (Ashley Parchment), his girlfriend, who’s all about therapy and pushes Mickey to dive into this emotional roller coaster, uncovering all those suppressed feelings he’s been lugging around. Wrapping your head around all these themes tied to trauma in today’s cinema scene can be pretty tricky, no doubt about it.

Dr. Cameron (Stephen Cofield Jr.) steps in to give Mickey some solid guidance, a complete contrast to his father’s rough and aggressive demeanor. In these therapy sessions, Mickey faces those haunting memories of both verbal and physical pain, reflecting on how his mom (Gayla Johnson) couldn’t change their home’s tough environment. The only glimmer of light comes from his art teacher (Dennis LA White), a comfort that brings its own set of consequences.

As for the film’s path, it mostly stays on track, but there are moments when the pacing stumbles a bit, a small hiccup if you will. But here’s the biggie – the film’s just too darn long. Slicing off a good 15 to 20 minutes, maybe even more, could have really kicked its impact up a notch.

I mean, considering it started off as a short film by Cox, maybe sticking to that tighter structure would’ve been the way to go. Expanding it into a captivating three-act feature hits a roadblock due to the story not having that much meat to chew on.

But even with these points on the table, I’ve got to give Marcellus Cox major props for diving into the director’s chair for the first time. You can definitely see the potential in his work, and I’ve got full confidence that he’s going to keep honing his craft. That spark in his work is unmistakable, and his fearless approach deserves a shoutout. And, hey, a big round of applause for successfully bringing “Mickey Hardaway” to life, as they say in the movies.

“Mickey Hardaway” on Apple TV+, Prime Video, and other platforms too.