Jim Brown - All
HBO Home Video
Date: August 24, 2004
Review posted: August 28, 2004
football player, he broke through defense lines as if they weren’t
there. As an actor, he broke through color barriers to become a black
action hero. As an activist, he broke down closed doors to bring about
change. In this documentary by Spike Lee, Jim Brown, joined by many of
his friends and associates, speaks openly about his life and career.
Jim Brown has lived a
remarkable, truly American life. He rose from less than advantageous
circumstances in St. Simons Island, Georgia to become one of the
greatest athletes of all time, among other things. The early part of
the film shows us this. The documentary starts out as an engaging
portrait, giving us a glimpse at Brown and his children, all of them
together for the first time in, as Spike Lee says in the commentary,
at least a decade. We see the graves of Jim’s grandmother and
great-grandmother, the two women who did the lion’s share of raising
him. The film then moves to Manhasset High School, where Brown’s
athletic prowess began to shine through.
But the longer the
film runs, the more unbalanced it becomes. The important thing to look
at in any bio is not what is said, but what is left unsaid. And in
Jim Brown All American there is quite a lot. Did Brown ever
have a bad game? Not to hear this film tell it. This documentary
devolves into an act of glorification that leaves one wondering what
the other side of the story is. Jim Brown is not a saint. What were
his mistakes? He did not like everyone he met, and everyone he met did
not like him, so who did he clash with along the way? Those are the
kinds of questions that might yield a more well rounded picture of the
man, but they are not even asked.
The film plays as
though it were on fast forward, like a highlight reel that only
touches on the high points of his life. Brown’s retirement – when he
was at the top of his game – gets only a few seconds of screen time.
Likewise, his creation and operation of the Black Economic Union,
certainly one of the most interesting, most well thought out parts of
the civil rights movement (it was more about action and less about
rhetoric) gets only a few minutes of screen time. The last segment of
the film devotes itself to clumsily explaining away some of the
criminal charges leveled against Brown in the late ‘70’s and ‘80’s.
It should be said
that there are some interesting insights into Brown and his life,
enough to make the film compelling. But the overall effect is so
one-sided that the documentary is, in the end, not as successful as it
could have been.
Jim Brown All
is presented in the original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The
transfer is pristine, really bringing justice to the richness of the
photography. The colors are well translated.
Presented in Dolby
Digital Surround, the presentation is solid, well balanced, but it
tends toward the front speaker.
Commentary by Spike
talks about getting to know Jim Brown and how the film came to be. He
gives some anecdotes about the filming.
The commentary track
is the only piece of bonus material we have. The track is good, but it
would have been nice to have some more details.
Jim Brown All
presents a compelling portrait of the controversial athlete, and it
definitely worth seeing. The film is not well balanced, and leaves the
feeling of not telling the whole story, and the bonus material is in
short supply. The film is worth a look, but there is little to merit
buying this title.
VERDICT: RENT IT
Home | Back to