Through five meticulously captured hours chronicling their lives’ work, Dre and Iovine are shown bucking expectations and sticking to their guns in the face of unparalleled adversity. Their accomplishments are great, but their defeats aren’t ignored.
The Defiant Ones certainly falls into that overly celebratory trap at times. But the careers of both men are so inherently interesting, and the incorporated footage of some of the most revered pop musicians in history doing their thing is so much fun to watch, that you may be willing to forgive the show’s overuse of words like visionary and genius.
HBO's The Defiant Ones, written and directed by Allen Hughes, spends all of its four episodes on Dre and Iovine, covering their separate lives and their "improbable partnership" together in a gripping, digestible deep dive that always remains intimate.
The film, more than four hours long end-to-end, is the kind of solid but friendly documentary all celebrities dream of having made about them, awash in jaw-dropping sweeps of Malibu beach houses, visits to luxe mansion interiors and private-jet cabins, supplemented by drone’s-eye views of yachts and estates and perfect lighting everywhere Iovine and Dre go. Despite its fixation on provocative and at times harrowing (and even criminal) travails, The Defiant Ones never stops basking in the permaglow of their success.
The Defiant Ones stumbles most in the final half-hour, which often feels like a commercial for Beats headphones, the latest mega-success for Iovine and Dre. Although, by that point, I didn’t really care because I had heard so many interesting stories over the previous three-and-a-half episodes. Most of all, I was allowed insight into two men who lived up to the adjective in the title of this show.