Gonzo review

A tribute to one of God’s own prototypes, too weird to live, too rare to die...

“The edge. There’s no honest way to explain it, because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”

Lightning-powered by a hot cocktail of tequila, mescaline, anger and idealism, Hunter S Thompson spent his life hunting that edge. But as Alex Gibney’s overlong doc does make clear, it was fame that burned his brain more than drug or drink.

Thompson became a prisoner of the legend he’d created. Collaging copious archive material (home movies, photos, TV footage and voice recordings backed by Johnny Depp’s narration), the Oscar-winning director of Enron and Taxi To The Dark Side seems at pains to rescue the man from the myth.

The man who owned 22 guns. Who drank a bottle of whiskey a day. Who taught himself to write by typing out The Great Gatsby again and again.

Gonzo shows how short Thompson’s journalistic purple-patch was – and how potent. From the mid-60s to the mid-70s, he wrote a trilogy – Hell’s Angels, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas and Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail ’72 — that formed a savage eulogy for wilting Flower Power and launched a two-thumbed fist at the throat of Richard Nixon.

His style bear-trapped vital cultural truths with stunning psychedelic wit and devastating laser-accuracy. With Hunter’s wives, son and many others all chatting freely, Gonzo seems to have everything.

Yet it also seems to miss so much. Instead of constructing a nuanced character study, Gibney breezes his early days and races through the last 25 years of his life. It’s a surface skim of his contradictions rather than a search for deeper truth – which was what gonzo was all about.

Jonathan Crocker

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