This look into the life of Hunter Thompson is a great look into the life an incredible and astonishing individual that serves a great history lesson, but doesn’t get into the guys head as one would think a documentary focusing on the man would get.
The film picks up right around the time Hunter started his tenure traveling the Hell’s Angels and he quickly makes a name for himself as his exposé flipped their somewhat “glamorous” life in the media to scrutiny and being called rapist and murders. And the film quickly shows us how Thompson is able to shake things up and he didn’t do it just because, he did it because he felt like the people deserved the truth. In fact, Thompson’s ability to tell things how they were is what would set him apart from the pack throughout his career.
The film next delves into his life as a proposed politician of sorts in his attempt to become Sheriff of the county which contains Aspen in Colorado. While seeming at first like a joke, you quickly realize Thompson is all business. In fact, he makes some fantastic points and while he is quite liberal and his agendas would disrupt the social order quite a bit, he calls for people to just be fair, just, and free. The man believes highly in freedom and the documentary does an excellent job of showing us that. Whether it is readings from his later works about Bush II or his nearly successful efforts to get George McGovern into the White House through his work on the campaign trail for Rolling Stone in 1976, Thompson had a desire to try and change this country however he could in the direction that he felt it should go.
The film does a good job of getting some big names and small names in the mans life to come on and share, including some candid words from a number of people that you would never expect to share some stories that they do. Some of these guys are even some major politicians who speak highly and respectfully of the man, even if they were on the other side of pen. And the range of people, from all walks of life that he encountered, is impressive. He connected with people of all ages, ilk’s, and class, from the famous to the poor, and the film does a fine job of showing the effect he had on many people’s lives. Thompson’s words tended to be the voice for many that they were afraid to share or even help discover something inside them they didn’t even know they believed in.
The interviews in the film are done well but the pacing and length of time spent on some subjects are stretched a bit thin, and can be a shade redundant, but most bits are told with a good heart and there is surprisingly little hate shared about that man. In fact, a bit more of a contrast to an almost entirely positive praise lauded on Thompson in the film might have helped it a bit and provided a broader image of the man for us to understand; especially with a man that had as many critics as he amassed overtime.
In the end, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson is a solid portrait of a terribly interesting man. He broke ground in journalism, created a style all to his own, and reached an amazingly broad audience for what he was doing. The film focuses on the main high points of his life, and rarely focuses on the lows, and a bit more even handed approach the views on the man, the film might have worked a bit better in the end. Either way, the man’s life is definitely worth taking a spin on this disc as there are few to no other people like him ever in this world. His story is intriguing, inspiring, and an impressive feat in the world of journalism and if you are a fan of Thompson’s work this is a must see and if you are oblivious to his work he is an intriguing individual that is totally worth learning about. An easy recommendation.