Eight Hour Doc ‘O.J.: Made In America’ One Massive Magnificent Movie Monster (Movie Review)

OJ squareHow do you tell a comprehensive story of the saga that is O.J. Simpson?  By utilizing an almost eight hour runtime and braking it down into five parts is how.  Such are the daunting viewing parameters of the long, thorough and utterly comprehensive doc titled O.J.: Made In America directed by award winning documentary filmmaker Ezra Edelman for ESPN Films.  Covering much more than simply the salacious bits, the doc is a time historic time capsule of events before, during and after the famed ‘Trial of the Century’ and as such doesn’t skimp on details.  Given the doc to review in its entirety, braving the behemoth that is O.J.: Made In America is a major commitment, but one I fully agreed to take head on.  So below is a review dissection of one of the largest films created, but designed a tad different.  Since the doc is in five parts we’re giving each section its due by delving into each individually, plus with a single cinematic overview to start.  Raw, real and revealing as hell, its time to delve into the eight hour doc that is O.J.: Made In America.

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Above all else what O.J.: Made In America as a doc gets right and finally answers is the why.  Why would a man who had it all possibly commit murder?  Why was O.J. amidst a mountain of evidence found not guilty?  Why did the African American community rally so strongly behind him?  Why did most white folks not?  And most importantly after such a public trial why did O.J. himself not keep out of trouble and keep a low profile?  Not answered by the filmmaker himself, but via candid and at times shocking interviews with most of the keys players involved at all levels, Director Ezra Edelman creates a wonderful cinematic conundrum – the first impartial documentary that nevertheless provides concrete answers to the subject it’s dissecting.  And while this one runs an unheard of almost eight hours, it earns every minute.  Subjects are given just the right amount of on-screen time to provide insight into the mindset and context of events at the time – an invaluable tactic that all but forms the narrative of the doc as a whole.  So while I would not recommend watching this one entirely in one sitting (binge watching does not apply here – this one requires wide awake attention and thought!), the lessons learned within last so much longer than any record running time – real answers never come quick.

part One

Part One


While this section starts with a scene from a parole hearing of the now incarcerated O.J. Simpson (a piece of tape that turns decidedly creepy!), part one is all about the past.  Covered for those unaware and a reminder to those who remember, we see Simpson’s humble beginnings and his rise to fame.  A picture is painted of a very talented football player who decides early on to forgo what he sees as the trappings of being a man of color (“I’m not black, I’m O.J.!”) and fully embrace fame and celebrity instead.  Covered are the years with USC and the Buffalo Bills, his lucrative work as the pitchman for Hertz and the fandom and film work that followed.  (The candid conversations with Capricorn One director Peter Hyams are fascinating!)  But on the flip side Edelman also shows a chaotic part of LA that O.J. all but distances himself from; many shaming incidents of police corruption and brutality against the African American community that build a foundation of tension and distrust in law enforcement.  And their inclusion here informs the reactions to future events to come – an important factor in understanding.

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Part Two


There’s plenty of shocking violence running rampant throughout part two.  The heightened tensions on LA, especially in the wake of the Rodney King verdict with the famed LA riots, parallel the equally disturbing and growing threat of an obsessed and domestic violence prone O.J. towards his wife Nicole.  (Her diary entries are totally telling.)  Seeing again the torrid tape of police beating a defenseless King (along with a wave of other unjust crimes without proper punishment) is stomach turning for sure, but also notably nauseating are the audio tapes of an out of character O.J. screaming like a crazed mad man.  It’s in direct contrast to the persona created by the athlete turned celebrity and definitely gives even the strongest supporter a moment of pause.  (Plus hearing from former lover Keith Zlomsowitch a story of how a jealous Simpson watched he and Nicole’s entire carnal tryst through the window is unsettling!)  But his public image is given its due here with chatter from show business friends and pieces of life inside Brentwood seclusion.  All the while of course LA is at war next door – an interesting contrast indeed.

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Part Three


Part three gets us right in the heart of the crime, complete with construction of the events and aftermath.  (The Brown Family memorial video is kneecapping for anyone with feelings.)  The now infamous Bronco Chase is put into its rightful context and proves to be a perverse prediction of the freak show to come.  There’s intros of the lawyers on both sides, who are very willing to chat and reveal a cavalcade of interesting info and opinions that shock (the defense did indeed add black history to O.J.’s house for the jury!) and dismay (most agree that the first initial conversation with O.J. when he was in custody was botched), but all give interesting insight not well known.  Plus there’s terrific history into the past civil rights work of a young Johnnie Cochran, damning stories from longtime friend Ron Shipp that break your heart and even the misguided thoughts via Marcia Clark on her damning jury selection process.

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Part Four


Here trial gets its full due and beyond what we’ve seen there’s much more to be had.  Chatter from not only the two opposing teams, but jurors themselves.  They have a favorite lawyer (go Barry Scheck!), didn’t care about Nicole’s years of abuse (one juror says she has no sympathy for anyone who allows it) and like all of us felt the glove stunt was a massive misstep.  There’s also everyone’s thoughts on Fuhrman (even from the horses mouth!), how O.J. made money from behind bars (an autograph, anyone?!) and tales of behind the glove fiasco.  (Love hearing Lawyer Carl Douglas say when trying on the glove Simpson went ‘into Naked Gun mode’!)  Plus the unedited picture and footage reveals of the crime scene are arresting and eye opening – the true sick and twisted work of someone on a passionate out of control rampage.

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Part Five


Right from the get to the most revealing item in this section is the fact that while everyone that cheered was joyous of the acquittal of a black man in the face of years of injustice after years of being ignored, nobody was actually cheering for O.J. Simpson – a factor O.J. himself never understood.  (Not only does Juror #9 Carrie Bess claim the deliberation process was quick because they ‘had to go home’, but she unapologetically flat out admits the ‘not guilty’ decision was direct payback for Rodney King.)  Even in a rare seen video of his homecoming where he shows his fascination with his own press by checking put the TV news, Simpson is a man who definitely thinks its all about him.  But soon with the Brentwood neighborhood shunning him, the black community embarrassed and Fred Goldman coming after him with all winning civil trial guns blazing (a fact based trial that the criminal case should have been!), Simpson heads to Florida for a little happy hedonism – despite the fact that the two kids are now in his custody.  It’s a downward spiral of drugs, women and bad decisions (the tales of woe and confessions via close agent and friend Mike Gilbert are seriously sad) that ultimately ends with O.J. on trial again in Nevada and this time thrown to the wolves by dirtbag friends involved.  (One guy proudly proclaims, ‘F@ck O.J. Simpson!’)  In a case of cosmic karma (and in front of Marcia Clark reporting for E.T. and Fred Goldman as a steadfast shoulder perched reminder of past sins!) he’s convicted and sentenced to an obviously politically driven large amount of jail time.  But even his former lawyers, the jurors who freed him (Bess calls him a ‘stupid ass’!) and civil rights leaders who rallied behind him seem to shake their heads in obvious shame of the man they set free – the juice is no longer on the loose.

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I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

3 Responses to “Eight Hour Doc ‘O.J.: Made In America’ One Massive Magnificent Movie Monster (Movie Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Great write-up that once again shows how OJ Simpson had a better 2016 than the DC Cinematic Universe.

  2. Brian White

    Great write-up, but I want to make an objection to Aaron’s statement. Even though it’s true, I don’t see OJ with two movies next year that are going to earn millions! 🙂

  3. Aaron Neuwirth

    It didn’t see that this year either and yet he still had a better year.