Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Frank Review of "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson"

It's unlikely this will come up in any other review, so let me just say it and be done: the similarity between Grant Morrison and Hunter Thompson, specifically during his early 70's bid for sheriff, is uncanny. From stone sober liberal activist to psychedelic, sometimes nonsensical druggie fantasist. Let's hope Grant's career does take the nosedive of Thompson's.

"Gonzo" is an excellent introduction to Thompson. Much of the film is made up of circumstances surrounding and anecdotes related to his great works, "Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72." Through archival footage and interviews with friends and enemies, a portrait is painted of the man and his times... up to a point. The problem is, Hunter's times were the turbulent 60's and indulgent 70's. That god damned picture has been painted so many fucking times, I half expect Bob Ross to peek out of the side, dabbing at a trippy little cloud. The whole film is plagued with "been there, done that." Johnny Depp, who played Thompson in 1998's film adaptation of "Vegas," narrates (mostly through reading passages from Thompson's work.) Whether you lived through the times or were buried under the retreads of the 80's and 90's, this visitation feels more nostalgic than exploratory. Even Pat Buchanan chuckles in remembrances of Hunter, de-fanged long before his 2005 suicide.

Hunter S. Thompson was a fascinating individual and a monumental asshole. A film should be made about his early development, as this doc picks up just shy of his 30's, and his decades of decline, which are glossed over in favor of indulging the legend. "Gonzo" is a modest pleasure, but it's awfully shallow and highly repetitive, when you get down to it.

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