Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Movie Review: Gonzo; The Life and Work of Dr Hunter S Thompson

A part of me would love to live like Hunter S Thompson.

But having neither the talent, the constitution nor the testicular fortitude to follow a path like the father of Gonzo journalism, I have to settle for the odd glimpse into his life through his articles, books and - most recently - this gem of a movie.

Told by a variety of different voices, including that of Thompson himself and his close friend Johnny Depp (who played the writer in the movie adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and takes on the role of narrator here), Gonzo details the life of journalism's truest rebel from his humble beginnings in Kentucky up to his suicide in 2005.

Thompson first gained fame and notoriety with his book 'Hell's Angels' which was written after he spent a year living and riding with the motorcycle gang, an experience which culminated in a savage beating for the writer following a disagreement with a member. After experiencing and enjoying that first taste of literary stardom in 1966, he would rarely step out of the limelight for the rest of his life.

Video and audio clips along with both dated and recent interviews are used to recall the Great Doctor's many escapades, from his running for and almost winning an election to be Sheriff of a town in Aspen to his birthing and development of Gonzo journalism. A highlight of the retrieved footage is several of Thompson's many dictated recordings, more than a few of which were made during his legendary but all-too-common benders.

It's more than a little saddening for those working in journalism now to get a glimpse at a time when reporters could run up expense bills without a worry in the world. At one stage Thompson refused a Volkswagen hired for him by Rolling Stone while in Las Vegas. Only a Cadillac would do for a man writing a story on the American Dream, he had reasoned.

Throughout the feature, Thompson's anger (whether it be at injustice, misuse of power or downright incompetence amongst politicians) is a constant and cited by many as the source of his genius. His fondness for drugs of all shapes and sizes is also regularly alluded to in the many testimonies.

The darker side of the man's psyche isn't skimmed over either with both his wives and many friends speaking of his sometimes violent mood swings and infidelities. Nor do the makers shy away from the decline in volume and quality of Thompson's writing from the 1980s onward.

In fact, Thompson's detractors - including former Hell's Angel's tormentors and Nixon aides - feature almost as prominently as those who admired him, such as former American President Jimmy Carter, author Tom Wolfe and Ralph Steadman, the artist whose paintings helped bring Thompson's Gonzo reporting and imaginings to life.

A hellraiser to the end, Hunter S Thompson was also a man of groundbreaking talent. Gonzo is a must-have collector's item for fans of the man, while also providing a handy starting point for those not yet fortunate enough to be acquainted with his undoubted genius.

Hoge Rating 5/5 (Yes I've changed the rating system, marking out of 10 required too much thought)


the broken down barman said...

a true genius, a true nut job. bet he's giving someone a hard time where ever he is now

mapstew said...

Ah jaysus come home, the place is dead without ya!

The 'Leader' is gone to the dogs!

dashoge said...

Lord no map, there's still money in my pocket so I won't be booking the ship home just yet! You're up awful late back home!

mapstew said...

Was gigging!
Always have a coupla scoops to wind down when I get in. Hence the late hour!