NEW TO VIRTUAL CINEMAS! Chess is the great equalizer. It’s not about where you come from, but how you play. Director John Leguizamo’s Critical Thinking is based on the true story of the 1998 Miami Jackson Senior High School chess team, who, despite the lack of funding from the district, went on to win the National Chess Championship in Los Angeles.
John Leguizamo stars as Coach Mario Martinez, who fought hard to create a Critical Thinking/Chess elective at the school and handpicked four exceptional students to represent the school at tournaments based on their approach to the game. Those students include Sedrick Roundtree (Corwin C. Tuggles), Ito Paniagua (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), Rodelay Medina (Angel Bismark Curiel), and Gil Luna (Will Hochman).
“…handpicked four exceptional students to represent the school at tournaments based on their approach to the game.”
But Critical Thinking is not just about a high school chess team, but it also highlights at that time Miami’s rampant crime, poverty, and racism—which left many with no hope for a successful future. Sedrick Roundtree grew up with a stern single father (Michael Kenneth Williams), who used strength and intimidation as his strategy in playing chess, but also in raising his son. Ito Paniagua worked nights to help financially support his mother. While a gifted chess player, Ito was also actively scouted by a local thug, Andre Lamar (Ramses Jimenez), to sell drugs (amongst other things) for him, as well as actively scouted by the police to apprehend Andrew.
Later in the story, a fifth student, Marcel Martinez (Jeffry Batista), joins the team. Marcel is a Cuban refugee recruited by Sedrick and then we find out, he was a student of the game since the age of five and religiously studied the masters of the game, which shows up in his style of play.
"…there’s the chess or at least the metaphors of chess in life."