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Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson (DVD Review)

9 Nov, 2008 By: Brendan Howard


Street 11/18/08
Box Office $1.2 million, $29.98 DVD
Rated ‘R’ for drug and sexual content, language and some nudity.
Narrated by Johnny Depp.

That wild iconoclastic writer and cultural explorer Hunter S. Thompson was before my time. But people my dad’s age smile, nod and talk about him like he’s the descendant of the great beat poets of the 1960s.

Thompson worked as a sports writer, an intrepid reporter of American culture and an observer-for-hire for decades. Fans flocked to him, feeding his ego. Hell’s Angels, whom he followed for a while to write stories about, beat him up. He meant something to candidates on the national scene, his unique voice appealing to a wide swathe of Americans who felt they’d met some kindred spirit in this Thompson guy.

Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney wants us to see Thompson looking for the American Dream, and in some ways finding it. Gibney chronicles the American Dream’s transformation from commercialism to virtue in the 1960s, and from virtue to corruption in the 1970s and later. By 2001, writing about the Twin Towers falling, Thompson darkly prophesies a war, many wars, against this new national supervillain of terrorism. His was a life well-lived and a bit of a life squandered by the time he took his own life. That’ll be no surprise to viewers, who’ll hear of his suicide early on.

Gonzo will most appeal to those already enthralled by Thompson’s wild writing and Terry Gilliam’s brilliant semi-factual, drug-addled adaptation of Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But even new viewers who follow Thompson’s wanderings, narrated by Johnny Depp, re-enacted audio from Thompson’s Las Vegas road trip, and more visceral experiences through Thompson’s jaded yet imaginative eyes, may find themselves enthralled, too.

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