Animation Adventures

Unleashing the Power of Music: The Impact of John Henry’s Soundtrack

John Henry: A Modern Tale of a Legendary Folk Hero

In the latest retelling of the folk tale of John Henry, viewers are brought on a journey that highlights the contemporary relevance of the legendary figure. Directed by Will Forbes and written by Forbes and Doug Skinner, the film premiered at the 2019 Los Angeles Film Festival and was released on January 15, John Henry

John Henry was an African-American man known for his strength and resilience during the construction of railroads in the late 19th century.

He is said to have challenged the new steam-powered rock drilling machine by hammering a steel drill bit into a rock faster. He won the challenge but died from the effort.

Since then, John Henry has become a symbol of the struggles and endurance of the working-class.

Synopsis of John Henry

The movie John Henry follows the life of the titular character, played by Terry Crews. After a traumatic childhood, John Henry grew up to be a reclusive, kind-hearted man who lives with his terminally ill mother and is haunted by his past.

One day, he witnesses a group of gang members led by Hell, played by Ludacris, assaulting a young boy and his sister, who is eventually killed during the encounter. This incident triggers John Henry to intervene and protect the boy, who he takes in as his own.

Hell then starts pursuing John Henry and the boy, forcing them to flee to John Henry’s hometown in South Central, Los Angeles. Along the way, they encounter various struggles and challenges that test the limits of John Henry’s strength and resolve.

Eventually, they team up with John Henry’s old friend, BJ, played by Ken Foree, and together, they fight to protect their newfound family.

Relevance of John Henry Today

One of the main themes in the movie is the relevance of John Henry’s struggles and perseverance in the current world. The character and his story represent the challenges faced by marginalized communities, specifically by Black individuals who have been subjected to systemic racism and injustice for centuries.

Through John Henry’s journey, the filmmakers highlight the resilience and strength of individuals who must fight against overwhelming obstacles to provide for themselves and their loved ones. The Director’s Unique Style

Will Forbes’ directorial style is marked by intense emotions and slow-paced scenes that capture the mood of the characters and situations.

He balances the dramatic and action sequences to create a gripping narrative experience, with a unique sense of humor that keeps the audience engaged. Forbes’ use of vibrant colors and creative camera angles adds to the visual appeal of the film and emphasizes the contemporary relevance of John Henry’s story.

In Conclusion

Overall, John Henry delivers an engaging and thoughtful retelling of the age-old folk tale. Forbes and Skinner succeed in bringing the non-traditional hero to life in a modern way, and the actors’ performances add life and depth to the characters.

The themes of resilience, community, and family make the film an essential watch for anyone interested in storytelling that reflects the current climate of the world. John Henry is a film that captivates its viewers from its very beginning.

The storyline, acting, music, and direction combine to make an incredible work of art. The film tells the story of John Henry, a man with incredible strength and a heart of gold, who protects those he loves at any cost.

The Plot of John Henry

John Henry, played by Terry Crews, is a former gang member who turns his life around after a devastating tragedy. His mother, whom he cares for dearly, is terminally ill, and he is haunted by his past experiences.

After witnessing the murder of a young girl by a ruthless gang in his neighborhood, he takes the surviving boy under his wing. John Henry and the boy go on the run from the gang leader, Hell, played menacingly by Ludacris.

John’s strength is on full display in each encounter with the gang, but his efforts are not enough to save his closest friends: his mother and the young boy. Despite his heartbreak, John takes on Hell head-on in a final showdown that results in his own death.

The film’s themes center on the importance of family, loyalty, and sacrifice. John Henry is ready to lay everything on the line to protect the people he loves.

The young boy he saves becomes an integral part of John’s life, with John becoming a father figure to him.

Importance of Family and Community

The movie illustrates the importance of family and community and what it means to risk everything to protect them. John Henry becomes the guardian and protector of his ill mother and the young boy he saves, showing us that we are all accountable for the people around us and have an unbreakable bond with those we love.

The film presents a more profound view of what a family can mean to all of us, not necessarily by birth, but by the bonds we make throughout our lives. John Henry represents the embodiment of courage, integrity, and loyalty to those he loves, making him an excellent example of what it means to have these values.

Visuals and Music

The visuals and music in John Henry are an essential part of the narrative; the use of characters, costumes and settings are really well thought out. The movie was shot in South Central, an area known for its struggles with gang violence; this provides an air of authenticity to the film.

The music adds to the feel of the movie, with its hip-hop and R&B soundtrack. The score and songs were carefully curated to complement the overall atmosphere of the movie, enhancing the tension and emotions throughout the story.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, John Henry is a powerful work of art that touches the soul of the viewer. It is a film that highlights the importance of family, loyalty, and sacrifice.

It also underscores how the values of courage, integrity, and loyalty can shape a person’s life. The movie’s portrayal of the harsh realities of the world, heavily impacted by gang violence and systemic inequalities, remind us of the struggles we must confront in our communities.

John Henry is an excellent retelling of the story of a folk hero who embodies some of the noblest values a person can have. The incredible direction, acting, music, and storyline elevate it to a must-watch movie for anyone who appreciates authentic storytelling, character development, and the triumph of the human spirit.

John Henry is a film that combines a powerful story with stunning visuals and a unique soundtrack. The film’s production played a critical role in ensuring that the sentiments of the storyline were accurately conveyed to the audience.

Will Forbes and Doug Skinner lead the way in crafting a movie with a social conscience, and they brought in a talented cast and crew to execute their vision.

Pre-Production Process

The pre-production process for John Henry was essential in setting the tone and mood of the movie. Director Will Forbes and screenwriter Doug Skinner took their time in writing the script, ensuring that the story reflected contemporary issues of systemic racism and class struggle.

The duo’s collaboration resulted in a relevant and resonant work that resonated with audiences and critics alike.

The film’s casting team spent a considerable amount of time selecting actors who fit the mold for each character.

Terry Crews plays the titular character John Henry, while Ludacris brings a menacing energy to Hell. The rest of the cast, including Ken Foree as BJ, ensure that each character is essential to the story and that the emotional impact of the film is elevated throughout.

Visual Design

The visual design of John Henry was another essential factor in the production process. The located the filming in South Central LA, utilizing its griminess in portraying the story.

The film used the stark urban landscape, with its graffiti murals, smoke stacks, and chain-link fences to depict the bleakness of the urban landscape. The story demanded a realistic approach in design and execution, and John Henry’s production team delivered.

The Costumes and Props

The costumes that the characters wear in the movie played a significant role in establishing their identities. The costume designer, Charlese Antoinette, ensured that the outfits worn by the actors reflected their respective characters’ attitudes.

For instance, John Henry wears a black vest over an orange hoodie, symbolizing his transition from his gang member persona to a reformed man trying to do the right thing. Hell’s outfit is much more ominous, complete with an all-black suit and a black fedora hat.

These subtle touches go a long way in adding depth and character to the film.

The props utilized in the film were also crucial in establishing its visual style.

The use of the iconic sledgehammer as a tool of strength denotes John Henry and serves as a symbolic reminder of his epic tale. The various guns, knives, and other weapons used in the movie had a gritty, authentic feel that made them seem dangerous, reinforcing the danger that John Henry and those close to him faced.


The post-production phase for John Henry added the finishing touches that completed the movie. The talented team of editors brought the final vision of the movie to life, making sure that the film’s pacing, timing and sound design were just right.

Sound design made the various on-screen explosions, gunshot and other sound effects realistic, which enhanced the overall movie experience.

Music and Soundtrack

The movie’s music and soundtrack blend contemporary rap music with more traditional orchestral music styles. John Henry’s soundtrack includes songs by Ludacris and artists such as Jeezy, Jill Scott, and Brandy.

The extensive music selection played a crucial role in the film’s overall tone and mood, creating a compelling, unique atmosphere of its own.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, John Henry’s production quality played a key role in the powerful storytelling of the movie. Will Forbes and Doug Skinner assembled a talented cast of actors and crew whose synergy brought the scenery, costumes, props, and music/soundtrack into flawless sync.

The film’s immersive visuals and immersive atmosphere make it a must-watch for all film lovers. It is a testament to the collaborative and creative process of movie production and its ability to tell stories that are significant and impactful.

After its premiere debut at the 2019 Los Angeles Film Festival, John Henry received widespread acclaim from audiences and critics. The release of the film on January 15, 2020, gave the rest of the world the opportunity to appreciate the movie’s powerful story, gripping characters, and stunning visuals.


The marketing campaign for John Henry was essential in generating buzz around the film before its wide release. Social media was a critical component of the movie’s promotional push, with Terry Crews, Ludacris, and other cast members sharing behind-the-scenes images and clips on their respective accounts.

Trailers were also released on YouTube and other social media platforms, giving audiences a sneak peek of what they could expect from the movie. The production team utilized the popularity of the lead actors and created buzz through intentional marketing on the film’s believability and the universality of its themes.

The promotional material was constantly being shared across various platforms to maximize outreach.

Release Strategy

The team behind the film planned the release of John Henry strategically, ensuring that it was released in theaters, then on digital media, before arriving on DVD and Blu-ray. This staggered release approach helped generate greater revenue and reach more audiences in different locations.

“Word of mouth” was also a significant factor in driving interest in the film and encouraging repeat viewings.


John Henry received positive reviews from both audiences and critics, who praised the film for its writing, direction, acting, and overall impact. The film’s social relevance and themes resonated with viewers, giving them an emotional connection to the story.

The film’s box office gross was $118,000 in its opening weekend in the US alone. It achieved a 73% audience score and a 50% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film’s story stood out for many, with reviewers remarking it was “a vividly drawn tribute to urban America and modern themes.” It also showcased the vital role of family and community and that those things were necessary for redemption.

Digital Release

John Henry’s digital release proved to be just as successful, providing the film with higher revenues than expected. The film’s arrival on various digital platforms, including Amazon Prime, Google Play, and iTunes, enabled the filmmakers to reach a broader audience, including those who had missed the theatrical release.

The coronavirus pandemic also led to a change in movie theater operations and an increase in people watching movies from home. John Henry’s digital release proved to be timely in filling the gap for those looking for something to watch from home.

People seemed receptive to the film’s powerful themes during the intense period of lockdowns.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, John Henry was one of the most highly anticipated films of the year 2020 and achieved significant success following its release. The critical acclaim the film received was well-deserved, and it resonated with audiences worldwide.

The movie release process helped in building hype over time by a well-timed approach of marketing and a widely available digital release. It showcased the importance of a thoughtful release strategy and marketing campaign and opened doors for an exploration of avenues for direct release alongside traditional theater release.

The film’s themes have helped ignite important conversations around the relevance of prejudice and inequality, making it a memorable entry in American indie film. The soundtrack to John Henry has been one of the most remarkable features of the film, adding to the story’s depth and character.

The musical score of the film carries a mix of different genres, ranging from classic orchestral music to more modern rap and R&B selections that help to create a unique and memorable movie experience.

Curated Music Selection

The diverse tracks featured in the movie were curated by music supervisor Sabrina Elam and director Will Forbes, who carefully selected each song to complement the story’s emotional beats. The music selection in the film is used effectively to enhance the narratives’ various mood and plot points.

The Soundtrack Highlights

The film features a stunning music score, which is mostly comprised of rap and hip-hop songs. The opening scene of the film features “Picture Me Rollin,” by Tupac Shakur, setting the tone for the rest of the movie.

The song’s message about persevering, despite the odds, reflects the character of John Henry and his resilience. “Black Ice,” by Goodie Mob feat OutKast is another powerful track featured in the film, which drives the story forward and sets the mood for the intense sequences.

Its lyrics refer to the struggle for success despite the harsh conditions present in the community around them, a message again reiterated throughout the entire film. Other memorable tracks featured in the movie include Ludacris’ “Move Bitch,” Jeezy’s “Church in These Streets,” and the powerful love ballad “He Is” by Olu Bliss.

Collaboration with Contemporary Music Artists

The collaboration of contemporary music artists in John Henry helped to uplift the film and brought in more audience interest. The musicians have made the movie accessible to the younger generation and introduced them to a heroic narrative and the history of southern folk culture.

The tracks in the soundtrack have not only enhanced the movie’s experiences but also introduced viewers to various contemporary artists over the movie’s opening credits, for instance.

Impact of the Soundtrack

The music in John Henry gave the film its unique flavor and works efficiently to heighten the tension and emotion throughout the movie. The score’s deliberate selection serves to complement the film’s scenes and underscore emotional moments prominently.

The film’s music not only adds to the mood but the lyrics of the songs chosen provide additional meaning to the character’s conflicts and resolutions. They emphasize the values showcased in the movie, such as the significance of family, loyalty, and resilience in the face of adversity.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the music in John Henry is an essential component of its success, marking the cutting-edge music selection employed to create a unique, memorable hero’s story. This movie soundtrack is a stunning testament to how the infusion of carefully curated songs not only complement the movie’s visual style, but show that the power of music can create an even more profound impact on viewers.

John Henry is an excellent example of how music and visual media work together to create an immersive movie experience. The films soundtrack elevated it to the next level of cinematic excellence, which is why it is recommended to watch with a good sound system.

In summary, John Henry is a powerful movie that employs exceptional writing, direction, acting, and music to deliver an emotionally resonant, socially relevant story. The film showcases themes of family, community, and loyalty, and how those values remain significant despite the odds.

The movie’s quality demonstrates the pinnacle of cinema done right and its deserved acclaim from audiences and critics. It has an immersive atmosphere that resonates with different age groups and cultural backgrounds.

To give clarity, here are some of the most asked questions and answers about the movie:


Q: Who stars in the film John Henry? A: The film features Terry Crews as John Henry, Ludacris as Hell, and Ken Foree as BJ.

Q: What is the film’s storyline? A: The story follows the journey of John Henry, an ex-gang member who saves a young boy from a ruthless gang leader, Hell, and how the pursuit of the gang forced him to flee South Central Los Angeles with the boy.

Q: What makes the soundtrack of the film unique? A: The soundtrack of the film was curated by Sabrina Elam and Director Will Forbes and features a diverse mix of music genres, including rap and hip-hop songs.

Q: What are the significant themes in the movie? A: The significant themes in the movie are resilience, family, and community, all of which hold significant relevance today.

Q: What is the movie’s overall effect on audiences and critics? A: The film has been lauded for its exceptional writing, direction, acting, and music and has connected with viewers over a wide age range and cultural backgrounds.

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