Gonzo: The Life and Works of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson Review

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Documentary on Hunter S. Thompson, creator of ‘Gonzo journalism’, whose Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas was immortalised in Terry Gilliam’s film starring Depp (who appears and narrates). Contributions come from Thompson’s vast, eclectic circle, who range f


With Taxi To The Dark Side and Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, Alex Gibney positioned himself among the foremost contemporary documentary-makers embracing politically-charged subjects. While journalist-as-rock-star Hunter S. Thompson is a gift to a filmmaker, Gibney brings his own penetrating gaze to a life story you could not make up. It’s a tale of persistence, prodigious excess, politics and peyote.

A mythic figure in the American landscape, Thompson made his name with bold participatory journalism, running with outlaw bikers for his ’60s bestseller Hell’s Angels. This developed into a manic, first-person reporting style in which the observer himself — in his Gonzo persona — becomes central to the story.

Gibney craftily interweaves archive footage, a rocking soundtrack, face-to-faces with an amazing range of interviewees and Thompson’s audio tapes, so that the subject is also the narrator. Depp not so much reads as performs Thompson’s words, for scenes that vividly evoke the writer in exultation and wrath.

Even those who locked horns with Thompson recount anecdotes that make you cry with laughter, from his running for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado, to his sojourn in Zaire to cover the ‘Rumble In The Jungle’ — he got so out of it he went for a swim and missed the fight of the century. Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner recalls the row they had over his expenses claim for the Cadillac convertible in which he rampaged around Vegas in Fear And Loathing. “I can’t search for the American Dream in a goddam Volkswagen! What the fuck is wrong with you?”

A definitive, accessible, even inspiring screen biography put together with thought and vitality.