Released 8th June
Seen 17th November
Directed by Andrew Sandler
Produced by Riveting Entertainment
Starring Chris Brown
On February 8th 2009 Chris Brown and Rihanna were driving together when, allegedly, Rihanna found a text on Chris Brown’s phone from a woman who, allegedly, Chris Brown had been sleeping with. After reading the 3-page text message an argument ensued and Chris Brown attempted to push Rihanna out of the car, shoving her head against the window, striking her multiple times, biting her and putting her in a headlock until she almost lost consciousness. Then, he punched her some more in the face with his right hand while still keeping his left hand on the steering wheel (Because, you know, he’s a responsible driver). Rihanna attempted to protect herself from the blows that were repeatedly coming to her face and body by Chris Brown, who also took her phone off her when she tried to call for help and threw the phone out of the window of the moving vehicle. Chris Brown would serve no actual jail time for this but instead 5 years of probation, 1 year of domestic violence counselling and 6 months of community service… and now Chris Brown want’s to tell you how he was hurt and wounded by the fallout of when he almost beat a woman to death with his bare hands because she caught him cheating on her… allegedly.
So in case that little opening paragraph didn’t make it clear, allow me to get some disclosure out of the way here. I do not like Chris Brown. I find him to be an irritating person who has assaulted at least one woman, shown himself to have serious anger management issues, caused property damage because a news show asked him a question and was in a goddamn armed standoff with cops in 2016 (Remember that?Because I do. This film sure as fuck doesn’t mention it, possibly because it ruins their narrative considerably but I remember it) so I’ll be honest, just from the personality alone I do not like Chris Brown so if that’s going to be a problem then to quote the man himself ‘Deuces’. I am also not a fan of his music, but that’s partially because I stopped caring about modern music around the time he and Bieber took over the airwaves. Just putting that out there now. I gave this film as fair an assessment as I could but there is all this backstory which is essential to understand my critique of the film and decide if you even want to know what I think. Fair warning, if you are a fan of Chris, just close this window now because you might not like what I’m going to say (Because, shockingly, up until now I’m being restrained)
I will absolutely give this documentary credit for its style, the choice to show the old news clips on a large swatch of TV’s on the floor is a great visual choice and I give them credit for getting a handful of really good interview subjects and also for not shying away from the dark side. I was admittedly worried this was just going to be a “Yeah, he made a mistake but look at his career now” movie… and yeah, it’s that, but they spend a lot of time delving into all these moments that gave Chris Brown the reputation he now has and tries to explain his side of the story which is understandable but here’s the funny thing… fucks not given.
Maybe this makes me a bad reviewer, maybe this makes me horribly biased, but I have this real disgust towards anyone who tried to pass off almost beating a woman unconscious as a mistake, as though somehow they’re the actual victim and that happens here so many times. Not just Chris, but Jaime Foxx and Usher and DJ Khalid all seem to be trying to act like his violent assault against Rihanna was just a distraction from the music… No. No, sorry, not acceptable in any form or fashion. Absolutely talk about how he managed to show that he was more than this vile woman beating sociopath, go nuts with that, but don’t pass off the woman beating as something that he did because his brain wasn’t fully formed or as though it’s just the bottom before he can rise to the top. They literally do that multiple times, every time they did it I replied by yelling ‘fuck you’ because that is the reaction that sweeping assault aside deserves.
I do have to admit that this movie did give me a little appreciation for Chris’ ability as a dancer. I will be honest and state that I never paid any attention to it, mostly because I heard ‘Run It’ once and went “Oh, that sounds like shit” and tuned everything else out. I still think his music is subpar at best and in cases of songs like “Deuces” and “Loyal” (They play during this film, I’ve seen reviews of them before) I just think it’s wildly hypocritical for the known woman beater and liar to be berating women for doing things to him. That being said, his dancing is impressive and it’s nice to finally have one decent thing I can say about Chris Brown because I absolutely wanted that… he’s nowhere near Michael Jackson, which this movie keeps trying to make him out to be, but he’s pretty damn good and that’s a nice touch.
So, let’s talk about how they discuss him violently beating Rihanna… for starters, it’s all Chris’ side. We don’t get an actual interview with Rihanna where she can counter his points, we don’t even get intercuts of her descriptions of the assault, we get Chris trying to make out like he was in fear from someone who was half his size. If this film wanted to be actually fair about this, they’d of asked Rihanna to come in and talk about that stuff. Now maybe they did and it just never happened… personally, I think the fact that this production company made 13 Chris Brown music videos in the past and 0 Rihanna music videos shows that they’ve got a touch of bias too. Anyway, they do play small soundbites of Rihanna talking in previous interviews, never showing her face on camera while talking (Because if they did, no one would listen to Chris) and instead dubbing it over Chris Brown painting some shitty mural. This is apparently how they want to frame this important moment in the story and it’s not good. It’s so blatantly trying to make him out to be the innocent victim who just snapped one day and things got out of hand and I do not care one bit. I don’t, I can’t. I tried, I really did. I listened to his story but there were moments where you could tell he’s making this up on the fly, or at the very least the editing of the clips and the way he tells it makes it feel like he’s making some of this up.
Bottom line? If you’re a fan of Chris Brown, then nothing I say matters. You’ve already decided that his side is the only one that matters and that he’s perfect and did nothing wrong, yada yada yada so let’s make this clear… this film exists in 2017, a year when men in power who hurt women don’t get to have careers anymore. Chris Brown hurt a woman, he’s hurt multiple women if every single news story is in any way accurate and yet he still has a career. This is absolutely a story about someone who hit rock bottom and pulled themselves back up. The downside is that the only reason he hit rock bottom is that he’s a violent woman beater who clearly has learned nothing from it. I hope I’m wrong, I’d love nothing more than to be wrong. I’d love nothing more than to look back at this in 10 years and go “Huh, he really did learn something from all this”… and then I’ll remember that the thing he learned from was almost punching a woman to death and I’ll say ‘Fuck it’ and be a much happier person for it.
You wanna make a documentary about someone doing something bad in their life? That’s fine… make fucking sure you don’t pass them off as the victim when they’re the one who victimised someone else, because if you do that then you’re a shitty filmmaker and need to stop working now.