From the directing team of Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger, 'Evocateur' highlights Downey’s immodest beginnings, as the liberal son to a crooning father and a mistreated starlet wife. Downey tried music, and even dabbled in poetry before finding his calling, as a hard-right entertainer taking on the guise of a “voice of the people.” 'Evocateur' takes great pains to illustrate that Downey wasn’t the first to welcome on-air confrontation with obnoxious braggadocio, nor is he the last, with face-time given to the sub-literate likes of Glenn Beck.
The camera captures the reunion of a small group of Downey’s audience regulars, but this segment becomes one of the film’s more ineffective as it fails to illustrate this bombastic troublemaker’s mercurial appeal. We don’t learn much about this group of white-collars and why Downey spoke to their specific life situation, boiling rememberances down to “man, those were crazy days.” It’s part of the film’s attempt to avoid any relevance between Downey’s voice and contemporary attitudes -- the picture’s timeline seems to conclude roughly after his show’s cancellation, with a brief pitstop in 2001, when Downey’s fading health claimed his life. No time to establish whether hindsight determined if Downey was a token nutcase, or if he actually was a distorted voice of a generation.
The issue of race is bound to provoke, considering the incendiary Downey’s unpredictable relationship with the black community. Downey’s former producers, all crowing over their former boss’ excess, make the claim that they introduced Reverend Al Sharpton to the public at large, thanks to confrontational appearances on the show that nonetheless revealed Downey and Sharpton as allies. Later, a disproportionate amount of time is spent on Downey’s coverage of the Tawana Brawley trial, an in-depth perspective only made to later compare with Downey’s career lowlight: a faked attack from nonexistent skinheads made specifically to drum up publicity. It’s an uneasy comparison, and like most of 'Evocateur' and Downey’s own show, you hate yourself for not looking away. [C]