BluRay/DVD Reviews

GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON

By • Nov 23rd, 2008 •

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Buy the ticket, take the ride – I did, and it was well worth it.

On dorm room walls all across the country there are posters of Hunter S Thompson in his signature tinted shades with that infamous cigarette holder perched at the side of his mouth. To most college students he embodies the spirit of freedom and rebellion, and most of all, getting wasted; but very few people get to know the real Hunter Thompson, the innovative young journalist with a wife and son who had a passion for politics, and in his various travels managed to create a unique style of journalism that has inspired generations of young writers after him.

In his latest documentary, GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON, Academy-Award winning director Alex Gibney examines both sides of the legendary trouble-maker by interviewing a multitude of Thompson’s closest friends and colleagues which include everyone from Tom Wolfe and Johnny Depp, to Jimmy Carter and George McGovern.

The film spends little time on Thompson’s unprivileged childhood in Louisville, Kentucky and instead skips ahead to his time imbedded with the Hells Angels in the mid-sixties. It then goes on to cover his various famed exploits like running for sheriff of Aspen, his infamous drug rampage through Las Vegas, and his time on the campaign trail with George McGovern in 1972. Finally, it examines Thompson’s struggle with fame and loss of anonymity, a key to his journalistic greatness, and ultimately ends where it starts; at his oddly anticipated suicide and subsequent spectacle of a funeral.

The film isn’t just a straight re-telling of events though. It also examines how Thompson’s wild behavior affected the people around him, and how it, along with fame, ultimately ended up destroying stability in his personal life.

At some points he’s portrayed as a family man, and at other points a wild man, but in the end it shows the man for exactly what he was; both an angel and a demon.

What Gibney does right in this documentary is he not only examines Thompson as a man, but also Thompson’s evolution as a journalist. He does not simply examine the events of Thompson’s life matter-of-factly, but instead shows how each event influenced his personal philosophy and contributed to the invention of “Gonzo”, his own personal journalistic style, which became his trademark later in life. It examines every element that contributed to Hunter being Hunter and does so in an entertaining and engaging fashion.

The single DVD release has a superbly crafted interface and comes chock full of special features. These include par for the course fare like a director’s commentary and deleted scenes, but also more unique offerings like audio excerpts from “The Gonzo Tapes”, drawings by Hunter’s partner in crime Ralph Steadman, and even a feature called “Hunter’s Guns”.

The bottom line is, whether you’re a big fan of the late Dr. Thompson, or just moderately curious about his life and work, you have to check this movie out.

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