Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Concussion is an odd, misguided movie.

Will Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, a pathologist studying the cadavers of former football players who are dying in mysterious ways. His studies eventually lead to the discovery of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a brain disease resulting from repeated concussive hits to the head.

Director Peter Landesman’s film makes the mistake of focusing on Smith’s character, and pushing the stories of the suffering football players into the background. Does anybody really care about Omalu’s love life when football players are killing themselves after retirement? The story of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster (played movingly by David Morse) only gets a few minutes of screen time, while Omalu’s television habits and dancing prowess get more than one scene.

The film goes for a strange emotional payoff regarding Omalu’s triumphant discovery rather than really focusing on the treacherous cover-ups by the NFL when it came to CTE. Again, a movie that pushes the stories and fates of suffering NFL players into the background in favor of giving a big Hollywood star a beefed up role feels mighty self-indulgent.

This could’ve been the incisive, important film the subject needs, rather than a melodramatic excuse for Will Smith to try out a new accent. 

Concussion opens Friday, Dec. 25, at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Harry Potter goes over to the dark side in Horns, a nasty little movie from director Alexandre Aja, maker of Piranha 3D and the decent remake effort The Hills Have Eyes.

Danielle Radcliffe plays Ig, who is accused of killing his girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple), after an ugly breakup. Not too long afterward, Ig starts sprouting horns out of his head, much to his chagrin. When people see these horns, they behave rather badly—and they have a hard time lying. Ig uses the horns to not only bring out the worst in people, but to start solving the mystery of his lover’s death.

Radcliffe is great here, utilizing a strong American accent and taking advantage of a nice chance to let his nasty side come out. Temple is adorable as Merrin; her story is told in flashbacks, and she leaves no mystery as to why Ig is so messed up after the loss. Joe Anderson is good as Ig’s musician brother, a man strung out on drugs and hiding a few secrets. James Remar, David Morse and Kathleen Quinlan all make their marks in supporting roles.

The movie is rated a hard R, with crazy violence. Mommies and daddies: Don’t let your young kids watch this one, no matter how much they want to see the new flick with the Harry Potter guy.

As a mystery, the movie is a complete failure, because it’s obvious early on who the murderer is. It doesn’t matter, because the film is very strong as a horror comedy. It’s Aja’s most fully realized film to date, and it contains one of Radcliffe’s best performances.

Horns is available via video on demand and online sources including iTunes and It also opens Friday, Oct. 31, at Cinemas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0730).

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing