By Amy Nicholson
9:25 AM EDT, June 6, 2013
Most documentaries don't open blasting metal music, but then most documentary subjects aren't Morton Downey Jr., the angry Icarus who dominated talk shows from 1987 to 1989 before he was hissed off-air for claiming, falsely, that he was attacked in a bathroom by Nazis.
Still, despite the screaming Valkyries on the soundtrack, "Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie" is as fair a portrayal the weak-chinned warrior will get — and fairer than he deserves. (Ron Paul, who suffered Downey Jr. threatening to puke on him, among other insults, may wish the three-man directing team of Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger had gone harder.)
No need. As "Évocateur" proves, Downey Jr.'s real enemy was himself. An attention-hungry failed singer, his right-wing shtick on the nationally televised "The Morton Downey Jr. Show" was part-political, all performance — the voice of the bitter working man was really a well-dressed friend of the Kennedys.
Yet his popularity speaks to the baseness in all of us. He decried feminists, made fun of vegans, bragged about smoking four packs a day, and was in turn hero-worshiped by everyone from New Jersey hotheads to Catholic schoolgirls. (Even Gloria Allred cops that they shared a "sexual tension.")
Though this riveting doc tries to focus solely on the man, our minds can't help wandering to the initiators he spawned, who seem to have permanently soured our national civility. A word to Messrs. Beck, Limbaugh and Imus: When even your friends say you'd make a great serial killer, it's not a compliment.
'Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie'
MPAA Rating: R for language and some nudity.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Playing: At the Sundance Sunset 5, West Hollywood.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times