Reviewed byEric266Vote: 7/10/10
I remember watching Phillips in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl run wild over theGators. I am from Florida and remember well Nebraska playing Floridateams three straight years for the National Title. He was a beast. Ithought, like most people, he would be an amazing NFL talent. As thedocumentary shows, he could run away from linebackers and defensivebacks, but he could not run from his past.
Its that mindset that always bothers me. Not every abused child growsup to be a monster. Not all people who become monsters were abused.There is a certain level of responsibility that NO ONE in thisdocumentary seems to accept. Phillips had a terrible childhood filledwith abandonment, abuse, and loss. But he made his own decisions andfailed to control his anger. None of his friends, coaches, relativesseemed to accept his issues and/or try to do anything about them. Theyjust kept saying what a sweet, kind, smiling kid he was as a youngster.The documentary kept showing over and over the same 3 or 4 pictures ofPhillips with a wide grin on his face. As if that excuses them usinghim for his talent or his celebrity and not stopping his mad crash. Iunderstand its not their job to try and control his demons, but goodlord, Tom Osborne basically sold his soul to get Phillips on the fieldfor the Fiesta Bowl. Much like today's sporting climate, it was onlyafter the media started publishing the photos and the stories didOsborne finally convince Phillips to declare for the draft.
The documentary, despite its bleeding heart leanings, is well done. Theinterviews and timeline are top-notch. Ross Greenburg did anexceptional job of weaving all these folks, (except for the girlfriendPhillips dragged down three flights of stairs by her hair who refusedto take part), was impressive. You could see these people cared aboutPhillips, but he was a raging river and they were just the rocks heslammed into and around, like so many defensive backs. Greenburg did anoutstanding job of getting these folks to open up about their owntorment of being part of Phillips' life. My opinion of Phillips didn'tchange after seeing the film, but my empathy for those who he affectedhas. The film does a marvelous job of showing you a timeline of howPhillips got to where he ended up with the interviewees providing thenarrative.
I just wish the folks would have opened up more about Phillips' darkside. In order to get the full measure of a man, you can't just discusshis positive side. He had a great smile? Was he smiling when he chokedhis girlfriend into unconsciousness? He ate dinner at your home at yourtable with your teenage son? Great. Was he being a great role model forteenagers when he tried to run them down after a pickup football game?They all wanted to discuss his good side, but clammed up about hisdarker impulses (except for his last girlfriend whose assaultultimately sent him to jail). She was brutally honest and you couldtell it still pained her. She loved the man, but was helpless tounderstand him.
All in all, its a well done documentary. It fell short on being thefull measure of the man due to the reason stated above. Still, I have alittle more insight into a human being and an athlete who seemed tohave it all, but couldn't outrun the ghosts still chasing him it. Mayhe have found peace in death that eluded him in life.
Feature length documentary examining the troubled life and tragic death of college football standout and talented NFL running back Lawrence Phillips, whose scars of childhood abuse and abandonment haunted him throughout his career.