Posted Dec 09 2015

Concussion - Heads Knock, Movie Doesn't Quite Rock

Dir: Peter Landesman

Starring Will Smith, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks, Stephen Moyer, Eddie Marsan, Luke Wilson

The real problem with Concussion is Will Smith.

OK, maybe not Smith per se, but his director’s use of him. Peter Landesman seems so enamoured of his leading man that he spends the first ten minutes or so of his movie selling us his wonderfulness. Thus, Smith’s real life NFL-busting pathologist is presented to us not only as a super-heroic man with a million degrees but also as a man with a million quirks. You know, those on-screen things actors latch onto because they think it’s makes them “interesting.” Thus Smith talks to dead people – and his boss hates him for it! –he claps his hands unconsciously when things aren’t going his way, he wipes his slides on his sleeves before putting them under the microscope. Oh, and he has an accent – the last refuge for anyone bucking for Oscar.

To be fair, this is a true story (what was that we said about bucking for Oscar?) so Smith going accurate on the voice of Doc Bennett Omalu is justified here (and convincing.) And as the film continues to unwind, it wins over the viewer with its true life tale of the NFL’s continued desire to hide the fact that grown men smacking their heads together every Sunday could lead to some damage in the brain department. (You think??)

And Landesman’s film has the brilliant Gugu to anchor it. But even she can’t make it work overall. There’s a lot to like here – Smith is totally solid, Brooks and Baldwin are two very different kind of brilliant, and the story is emotive. But it wants to be The Insider. And it’s not The Insider. Not by a long stretch.


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