Directed By: Leo Penn
Starring: Sammy Davis Jr, Louis Armstrong, Ossie Davis, Cicely Tyson, Mel Torme
Disclaimer: Kino Studio Classics has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections.
Sammy Davis Jr was a key part of the legendary Rat-Pack, a group of artists that pretty much defined a certain style and way of life for an entire generation. Apart from music, Sammy Davis along with the other members ventured into acting. A famous jazz musician named Adam (Sammy Davis Jr) with a tragic past finds himself lashing out towards friends and loved ones as he spirals out of control.
Leo Penn's A Man Called Adam is a fascinating and frank look at self-destruction and guilt all in the backdrop of the smoke-filled world of jazz. A Man Called Adam seems like a lesser known outing which is probably best remembered for it's star-studded cast (more on that later).
On the surface the story of a erratic and strung-out musician is frankly kind of of dull and it's this aspect of the film that felt a bit played out. It's when Penn starts to dig into the reasons for Adam's issues when the narrative really opens up. Here we not only get to engage with Adam but feel pity for him. Furthermore, the raw and honest look at racism adds another layer of depth and uneasy to the entire film. It's worth noting that the film has an amazing expressionistic look thanks to the photography of Jack Priestley.
Sammy Davis Jr. heads up the cast and, honestly I was stunned and saddened to see that Davis was not nominated for his role as a struggling artist. Davis gives a heartbreaking powerhouse performance. Seeing him act as well as play is really a treasure. This movie also features the legendary Louis Armstrong in his second to last on-screen feature film performance before his passing in 1971. His role is small but you really know your witnessing genius at work. Cicely Tyson who sadly recently passed away also shines in early film roll. Ossie Davis and Frank Sinatra Jr are also great.
I've been trying to push myself out of my cinematic comfort zone and give movies a try that I might not otherwise not. I confess I'm not the biggest jazz fan (though I dont dislike it either) and, I've never been a big Rat-Pack fan either. I'm glad that I gave this movie a chance because it had a lot of heart, amazing acting not to mention performances music wise. It's a small tragedy that Davis was not even nominated for an Oscar for his gut-wrenching turn as Adam. I think that everybody should be adventurous and give this movie a chance.
Picture: Kino has provided fans with a stunning new 4k transfer. I talk about Jack Priestley's get photography and, this new print really does it justice. The overall image has a stunning depth in clarity with grain being smoothed and consistent throughout. Black's are deep and the contrast between black and white are handled extremely well. Details like clothing, sets and locales really pop.
Sound: Man Called Adam has a nice DTS 2.0 track. As soon as the film opens with that pule-pounding jazz beat I could rest assured that this track handles nicely. The film has a complex front-heavy sound track and dialogue and music comes through nicely. No hiss or distortion as far as I could hear.
Extras: Extras includes a feature length commentary by film historian and critic Sergio Mims. Mims delivers an engaging commentary that is clearly well researched. Rounding out the features is a series of trailers.