Directed by lifelong sports fan Spike Lee and produced for HBO, this documentary examines the tempestuous life of the legendary Cleveland Browns running back, whose post-game career included movies, hands-on social activism and run-ins with the law. Born on St. Simon's Island off the coast of Georgia, Brown was raised first by his grandmother and then by his mother, who in 1944 brought her son to Manhasset, Long Island, where she worked as a domestic and enrolled him at the local high school. An outstanding teenage athlete, he excelled at several sports: He played basketball, football, baseball and lacrosse, which was then considered his best game. Despite pervasive racism against African-American players, Brown forged a successful career in college football and was drafted into the NFL, where his formidable skills on the field were matched only by his professionalism: He missed half a game in nine years. Handsome, articulate and possessed of an unshakable self-confidence, Brown made his first movie, RIO CONCHOS, in 1964, and with 100 RIFLES (1969) became the first black actor to do steamy love scenes with white actresses. When shooting on THE DIRTY (1967) ran over and prevented him from making the beginning of the 1966 practice season, Brown retired from football to act full time, and caught the Blaxploitation wave that also made stars of performers like Jim Kelly, Fred Williamson, Pam Grier and Richard Roundtree. Brown served as president of the Negro Industrial Economic Union and collaborated with Richard Pryor to run Indigo Productions, intended to encourage film projects by and about African-Americans, an enterprise that went down in flames over personal differences. In the late '80s, Brown invested $300,000 of his own money to start Amer-I-Can, a nonprofit program designed to teach management and conflict resolution skills to prison inmates, gang members and other marginalized individuals. Though overall an overwhelmingly positive portrayal, the film doesn't ignore the more problematic aspects of Brown's life, including his sometimes strained relationship with the children of his first marriage (especially Kevin, a longtime drug abuser) and persistent accusations of violence against women that have dogged him since the '60s. Lee even interviews Eva Marie Bohn-Chin, whom Brown was accused of throwing off a second-floor balcony in 1968; her ambiguous and tearful account of the incident stands in sharp contrast to Brown's confident assertion that Bohn-Chin, then 22, fell while trying to climb off the balcony after an argument.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: NR
- Review: Directed by lifelong sports fan Spike Lee and produced for HBO, this documentary examines the tempestuous life of the legendary Cleveland Browns running back, whose post-game career included movies, hands-on social activism and run-ins with the law. Born o… (more)