Friday, July 14, 2017

The Defiant Ones (2017 film)

Directed by Allen Hughes and written by Hughes, Lasse Jarvi, and Doug Pray, The Defiant Ones is a documentary film about the unlikely partnership between music producer/Interscope Records co-founder Jimmy Iovine and rap superstar/producer Dr. Dre. The film follows the two men from their different backgrounds musically and culturally yet would bond due to their need to reinvent the music industry as it’s told in four parts. The result is a very fascinating and exciting film from Allen Hughes.

The film is a four-part story about the partnership that would change the industry as it begins with the news in 2014 when Apple bought the speakers/streaming service known as Beats for $3.2 billion that included the services of its founders in Andre “Dr. Dre” Young and Jimmy Iovine as it was considered a game-changer. It is a triumphant moment for the two who both came a long way as they both come from different backgrounds musically and culturally. The four-part documentary doesn’t follow Dre and Iovine in forming this landmark deal that made them billionaires but also their lives from the very beginning as two both made their mark as producers early on and then took on a much bigger role in the world of popular music.

Allen Hughes’ direction is quite grand as it feature a lot of visuals of different locations while many of the interviews with Dre, Iovine, and people who worked with them as well as colleagues and a few family/friends are all straightforward. Among them are Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, of Black Eyed Peas, Gwen Stefani, Trent Reznor, Bono of U2, Dre’s wife Andre Young, and several others including Iovine’s ex-wife Vicki McCarty. The film doesn’t just follow Dre and Iovine in their businesses and setting up plans to create a program at the University of South California but also their own individual projects as well as their lives early on. Notably in the different backgrounds of Dre and Iovine as the former lived in the ghettos of Compton near Los Angeles while the latter was from Brooklyn from an Italian family that had just moved to America.

With Dre being part of the influential gangsta-rap group N.W.A. with Ice Cube, Eazy-E, DJ Yella, MC Ren, and lyricist D.O.C. while Iovine would get his break mixing a record for John Lennon that would give him the chance to work with Bruce Springsteen and produce albums for Patti Smith, Tom Petty & the Heartbreaks, and Stevie Nicks. Yet, both men would endure some early tragedies in their lives where Dre lost his half-brother Tyree while on tour w/ N.W.A. while Iovine lost his fraternal grandparents and his father in the span of six weeks. The film’s second part ended with the two men at a crossroads with Dre officially leaving N.W.A. over financial issues that eventually tore the group apart while Iovine had become burned out by producing records as he was more interested in the world of business. The film’s third part is about the formation of Interscope Records with Ted Fields as a co-founder as Iovine tried to find the right acts as he would make a few major signings in getting Nine Inch Nails and its leader Trent Reznor to the label by buying out Reznor’s contract with TVT Records which include interviews with its smarmy founder Steve Gottlieb in all of his douchieness.

Dre meanwhile forms Death Row Records with Suge Knight and discover Snoop Dogg yet was still embroiled with legal issues until Iovine came into picture as he would hear Dre’s solo debut The Chronic and get Death Row be part of Interscope against the advice of many executives and corporate people. By 1994, Interscope was huge thanks in part to Dre, Snoop, NIN, and Tupac Shakur but also gain a lot of controversy over its lyrical content which lead to Time Warner getting into big trouble as they wanted Iovine to drop Death Row from Interscope in exchange for the label to be bought out for $150 million. Iovine refuses as he would move the company to MCA/Universal in 1996 where the label was thriving as there was a week where four albums from Interscope were securing the four top spots at the Billboard 200 album charts. Yet, it was bittersweet as 2Pac was gunned down a second time in September of 1996 and later died during the tumultuous Death Row-Bad Boy Records feud that would also claim the life of the Notorious B.I.G. seven months later.

Months before 2Pac’s death, Dre would leave Death Row due to the East coast-West coast feud as well as the violence that was happening in the label as he would form Aftermath Records which struggled to succeed until 1999 when Dre produced Eminem’s major-label debut as it became a major hit. The discovery of Eminem would start the fourth part as the film would also reveal why the album Detox that was supposed to be Dre’s third solo album was never released as he focused his time on creating the Beats headphones and speakers which he partnered with Iovine. The film, which is shot by cinematographer Charles Parish along with several others, have this gorgeous look to the locations as it follows Dre and Iovine in the course of two years. Editors and the film’s co-writers in Lasse Jarvi and Doug Pray would compile a lot of footage and such including rare performances and music interviews to help tell the story with sound editor Jay Nierenberg and sound designer Brent Findley providing a nice sequence in the way music sounds during a mix.

At the heart of the film is the music as it doesn’t just feature a lot of the music from the artists Dre and Iovine were involved with as well as those from Interscope. It also feature some ambient score music by Iovine’s in-laws in Atticus and Leopold Ross and Atticus’ wife Claudia Sarne.

The Defiant Ones is a marvelous film from Allen Hughes. While it is a bit flawed due to the fact that it’s kind of an advertisement for Beats headphones/speakers while it also have some very exaggerated stories. It is still an engrossing and entertaining film about a partnership that proves to be fruitful and profitable. In the end, The Defiant Ones is a remarkable film from Allen Hughes.

© thevoid99 2017

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