Fences (2016) - Rotten Tomatoes

Fences (2016)



Critic Consensus: From its reunited Broadway stars to its screenplay, the solidly crafted Fences finds its Pulitzer-winning source material fundamentally unchanged -- and still just as powerful.

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Denzel Washington directed and stars in this adaptation of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which centers on a black garbage collector named Troy Maxson in 1950s Pittsburgh. Bitter that baseball's color barrier was only broken after his own heyday in the Negro Leagues, Maxson is prone to taking out his frustrations on his loved ones. Both Washington and co-star Viola Davis won Tonys for their performances in the 2010 revival of the play. Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, and Mykelti Williamson round out the supporting cast.

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Christopher Mele
as Deputy Commissioner
Lesley Boone
as Evangelist Preacher
Jason Silvis
as Garbage Truck Driver
Theresa Cook
as Parade Participant
Dontez James
as Bike Rider
Malik Abdul Khaaliq
as Front Yard Neighbor
Tra'Waan Coles
as Towns person
Chris McCail
as Neighbor / Soldier
Kameron Peters
as Soldier / Towns Person
Joshua Tronoski
as Angelo the Italian Server
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News & Interviews for Fences

Critic Reviews for Fences

All Critics (152) | Top Critics (46)

Washington has pledged to bring all of plays in the cycle to the screen. The good news is he started with a home run.

December 29, 2016 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic

Yes, Fences suffers somewhat from the bare-bones transferal of the "action" from stage to screen but the material is so compelling that viewers can easily lose sight of the movie's "play nature."

December 25, 2016 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The two lead performances are stunningly complex and deeply human achievements from two of the finest actors working today.

December 25, 2016 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
Tribune News Service
Top Critic

It's not cinematic enough to make you forget you're watching something conceived for another, more spatially constricted medium, but it's too cinematic to capture the intensity, the concentration, of a great theatrical event.

December 24, 2016 | Full Review…
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

It's a privilege to watch Washington and Davis lay it all on the line.

December 23, 2016 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Based on the 1983 August Wilson play, Fences is little more than a filmed version of the 2010 Broadway revival. It all but throws up house lights during intermission.

December 23, 2016 | Rating: B | Full Review…
The New Republic
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Fences

From A Streetcar Named Desire to Les Miserables, bringing a stage play to life on the big screen is a very hit-or-miss genre to tackle. Never having seen the play Fences, nor even hearing about it until 2016 upon the film's release, I had little to no expectations when going into this film. Take an adaptation like Les Miserables for example. Yes, of course it had the staged feel to it, but it was not afraid to change locations on a whim. With this film adaptation of the play Fences, it very much feels like a big-budgeted play, playing out scene for scene on on the big screen. Does Denzel Washington direct this film well? Do his and Viola Davis' performances hold the film together? Here are my thoughts on Fences. This is as simple as you can get. Telling a story with 90% of it taking place at a house, whether it's inside or out, seems to be a boring notion on the surface. Having said that, this film makes up for that with an incredible amount of dialogue throughout its entire duration. Fences follows Troy (Washington) as he works, spends time with his family and friends, and spews out stories about his past, slowly giving insight as to what the outcome of the film may have in store for the viewers who have no prior knowledge of the play. That is really all that can be described about this film without getting into spoilers. This is a life story that takes its time with explaining everything in detail. A film like this can't be made this well without a talented cast though. Fences may or may not grab the attention as far as top film of the year goes, but Denzel Washington and Viola Davis absolutely need to be commended for their commitment to these characters. Washington evaporates into the persona of Troy and Davis into her persona of Rose, his wife. The way they play off each other almost feels like the cameras are rolling on a real married couple. The smile, laugh, get angry, and fight at every single perfect moment. Due to their devotion, there isn't much to pick apart when watching this film. Fences ends up being a great film solely for these reasons alone. There truly is nothing wrong with this film, but I have a few personal issues. Imagine a film directed by Quentin Tarantino, where the characters share a 20-30 minute scene where there is nothing but talking, stretch that into a 138 minute feature film, but strip away the cursing, blood and guts, or any shocking moments. Yes, that is exactly what Fences feels like, but it is a slice of life that many people can enjoy if they are aware of this going into it. It's a series of scenes that lead into one another with ease, making you feel like you are actually watching the play. That may or may not be an acceptable film experience for some, and although it works for me, it does make it seem like less of a motion picture. Overall, Fences may not be able to attract a broad audience, due to its very specific style of storytelling, but it's without a doubt a very well-made picture. It is very rare to see a film told this way, so for that alone I have to give credit where credit is due. With such incredibly powerful performances, direction that is worth noting by Denzel Washington, and a story that is worth sitting through at least once if you have yet to explore any form of it, Fences definitely gets a recommendation from my book. I can't say that I quite loved this film, but I do see many instances where some people might. This is a very well-told and emotionally striking drama that you should check out.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer


It took me a while to gather my thoughts after walking out of the theater. Denzel and Viola Davis gave two incredible, Oscar-worthy performances, and the dialogue that brought them there is downright genius writing. These positives only made me even more divided about the film as a whole, because it didn't feel like a film at all. Being based off of a play, it felt like a play that was trying to be a film, but ended up getting stuck in an awkward spot in between. There's nothing wrong with having few actually physical spaces to deliver a story in, but it was to the point where it was distracting. It also felt a little too long for me; clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes, there was a lot of dialogue (particularly in the beginning) that could and should have been cut out. It wasn't until the 2nd and 3rd acts that it demands your attention. I can't call it great cinema, because that would be an inaccurate statement. The movie fully stands on the performances, and if it weren't for Denzel and Davis, there wouldn't be much to praise. Luckily, they deliver the goods, which makes it worth seeing.

Kevin Mozulay
Kevin Mozulay

Super Reviewer

There's something about plays turned into movies that bring out the best in actors. Usually they provide meaty characters with flaws and big personalities, which lend themselves to big performances that touch upon every emotion in an actor's kit. Fences is based upon August Wilson's Tony-winning play set in 1950s Pittsburgh. It follows the fractious household under the indomitable influence of Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington, also serving as director). He's a complex man prone to bold protestations and morally righteous fury, but he's also deeply imperfect, hypocritical, and consumed with self-doubt over whether or not he has done right by his family. He's a man trying to still assess his place in the world and what is owed. Troy's older brother (Mykelti Williamson) has been mentally incapacitated from his war service and Troy has been living off of his brother's wages. Troy's oldest son doesn't feel like he ever had a father, Troy's youngest son wants to devote a future to sports, which Troy adamantly refuses, still nursing a grudge over his failed potential that was never capitalized in his mind. Then there's Troy's wife Rose (Viola Davis) who tries to keep her blended family together though Troy's actions will test the boundaries of her devotion and affection. As expected, the performances are outstanding, lead by Washington and Davis reprising their Tony-winning roles. When these two sink into roles worthy of their caliber, it's a pleasure just to sit back and watch the high-class mastery. Washington lights up the screen with the overwhelming power of his performance; you feel like your ears are pinned back by the sheer volcanic strength of his acting. Davis has her moments and she tears your heart out when she lets loose on a life of compromises to sustain her husband. The characters are so multi-layered with such plentiful history and generational conflicts. Every actor gets his or her moment to shine and do an excellent job under Washington's direction. The movie is little more than a filmed version of the stage play, and the pacing is a bit loquacious for being almost two and a half hours, but Fences rises on the sheer power of its performances with expert actors giving all of their considerable skill to bring these fascinating people to vivid life. Nate's Grade: B+

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

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