Thursday, March 3, 2016

Help! I've Been Concussed

A few years ago, I reviewed here a fascinating documentary called "The United States of Football."   It was all about the discovery that NFL players have been suffering from brain trauma after sustaining concussions during games.   Of course, a major part of the tale involved the boobs running the league who continue to ignore the issue.   Actually, this is one of the reasons why I personally have lost interest in pro football.   You have the same people who will hit a hand sanitizer five or six times a day but still will forget what repeated skull contact can do to a human being.  

But I digress...

Now the movie "Concussion" sets out to tell a similar story as the documentary did, but in dramatic terms as it focused on the Pittsburgh forensic investigator from Africa who stumbled upon the brain damage of several Steeler players.   Indeed, real life here once again trumps pretend life as the documentary is banged head and shoulder over the new film by director Peter Landesman.  

The main issue with "Concussion" is the same problem that exists with any movie that starts Will Smith.   It's Will Smith.   As an actor, Smith is better off being a fry cook at In N'Out Burger.   Every performance is punctuated by the same recurring theme..."I am acting and you need to give me an Oscar."  Every movie portrayal he does always seems to be caught mid-enema.   There is no nuance or shading to any of his roles.  The same can be said for "Concussion" where he plays the Nairobi doctor with an accent that reminds me of the old 7-Up TV commercial guy who used to say "there are cola nuts."  

As a result, "Concussion" suffers because of Smith's innate inability to act with any kind of organic delivery.  If your lead is weak, the whole film sinks to the bottom and, when you've fallen, you really can't get up.  That's a sad state of affairs because "Concussion" offers a story that is worth hearing again, even if the aforementioned documentary told it better.  Let's face it, the issue about brain damage and the NFL has not gone away.  Heck, didn't they come out and say that the late Frank Gifford might have suffered the same way from repeated blows to the head?  One might argue that such trauma might have also ensued from Kathie Lee wielding a rolling pin to the noggin, but that's a small quibble. The fact is that "Concussion" might have been more compelling with a different lead actor.

Especially in light of the supporting cast, which is stellar albeit unrecognizable. Try to find Albert Brooks in a skull cap.   I dare you.   And I didn't even know what part David "St. Elsewhere" Morse was playing until I read the closing credits.  The good news is that decent acting can envelop you so that you don't know who's playing who.

And then there's Will Smith.   Trust me.  There's no mistaking when he's in a film.   And, usually, as in the case of "Concussion," it's that movie's fatal flaw. And this makes all the controversy about Oscars and diversity a complete joke. Mr. Smith is so perturbed about his non-nomination that he didn't go.   Fine, stay home, jerk.   For this lousy performance, you shouldn't even be allowed to stand on line at Pink's for a chili dog.

LEN'S RATING:  Two-and-a-half stars.

Dinner last night:  Beef vegetable soup.

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