He was “The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business.” “The Godfather of Soul.” He changed the way music was made. He was The Great James Brown. He was also a narcissistic, perfectionist prick who was hated by his sidemen and not above slapping around the occasional wife.
This somewhat fragmented film by Tate Taylor (The Help) takes us from the early ’60s through the late ’80s and captures the energy that drove the man. Chadwick Boseman, who recently appeared as Jackie Robinson in 42, absolutely incarnates the main man doing his thang. He’s got the whirls, struts, splits, and leaps down—and the attitude as well.
The music he’s lip-synching, but that’s not bad news, because every note is from Brown’s own remixed original vocals. Mick Jagger, whose own legendary stage moves were inspired by Brown, is the film’s music producer. One glaring omission is that the film doesn’t even try to explain Brown’s endorsement of Richard Nixon in 1972. But to be fair, maybe that’s simply not possible to do.
In the end, like Ray, Walk the Line, and Jersey Boys, it’s all about the music; and fans, which are legion, will have a funkin’ good time. Japanese title: James Brown: Saiko no Soul wo Motsu Otoko. (133 min)