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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
Click poster to enlarge
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
TBC
Cast
Bill Hicks
Mary Hicks
Dwight Slade
Kevin Booth.
Directors
Matt Harlock
Paul Thomas.
Screenwriters
Running Time
TBC minutes

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American: The Bill Hicks Story
About A Goat-boy


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Plot
As much for the Hicks faithful as it is for new converts, this is an immersive, inventive delve into the life of a stand-up visionary.


Review
American: The Bill Hicks Story
"If anyone here's in marketing or advertising, kill yourself,” Bill Hicks would infamously quip. Or not. “There’s no fucking joke coming,” he’d add, voice rising, smile fading. “You are Satan’s spawn filling the world with bile and garbage.” It says something about the strength of Hicks’ act that even now, 16 years after pancreatic cancer killed him at the age of 32, those words resound enough to make Empire feel tainted just providing a line from this review to help advertise his own life story. Sorry, Bill. But you deserve it.

It’s not hyperbole to insist that the Texan stand-up’s material came loaded with profound power. Negative drug stories in the news, fundamental Christians, America’s warmongering foreign policy... It’s depressingly unsurprising that once Hicks hit his stride, he was thought too hot for homeland consumption and developed a bigger following in Canada and here in the UK. It’s easy to lionise those who were snuffed out just as their fires flared brightest, but there’s few who’d mock you for describing Hicks as the greatest ever stand-up.

Co-director Matt Harlock certainly wouldn’t. After all, before embarking on a three-year odyssey to shoot this, he hosted Hicks tribute nights in London. Together with Paul Thomas, he won the confidence of Hicks’ family and his closest friends, gaining access to 1,300 photos and unseen footage. Taking their cue from Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen’s The Kid Stays In The Picture, Harlock and Thomas have animated these photos and, threading them with the footage, woven a visual narrative so effective it will render any future biopics irrelevant. (Russell Crowe as Bill? Nah. Bill as Bill will do just fine.) The only weakness is that, unlike The Kid, this film involves multiple voiceovers, meaning you’re not always sure who’s talking when.

If you’re worried about Harlock and Thomas getting too easy a ride, then rest assured that while they never question his politics (it might have at least been entertaining to hear from Hicks’ critics), they do show us the warts, specifically Hicks’ struggle with drink and drugs. Yet essentially it’s the story of a man’s life told by those who loved him, and the man himself. And as such, it’s beautifully told


Extras

American: The Bill Hicks Story American: The Bill Hicks Story
Released: 30 September 2010
A good chunk of extended interviews, plus Q&A footage from the film’s festival debut at SXSW. Plus the trailer and crowd reactions from festival screenings, but alas, no extended bits of those rare on-stage moments.


Verdict
From his early days doing stand-up at the age of 15 in Houston, Texas, to his membership of the Texas Outlaws comedy collective, to his supremacy as a brilliant controversist, American tells the story of comedian Bill Hicks’ tragically short life through the eyes of those who lived it with him.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Average user rating for American: The Bill Hicks Story
Empire Star Rating

RE: American: The Bill Hicks Story

Directors: Matt Harlock, Paul Thomas Starring: Bill Hicks, Mary Hicks, Dwight Slade, Kevin Booth Synopsis In this photo-animated feature documentary, we get to explore the life and works of the stand-up comedic visionary that was Bill Hicks. Review I was never fascinated by the workings of stand-up, which is probably due to fat men like Peter Kay or sweat bags like Lee Evans. It was clever individuals such as Eddie Izzard (who funnily described the meaning of Easter) and Woody A... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 23:15, 02 June 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Most important stnd up ever

In terms of an artistic vision its a marvellous piece of work. The amount of archival footage and photos of the great man is nothing short of remarkable and creators Matt Harlock & Paul Thomas have done a fine job in using this to celebrate the life of one of stand up's greatest acts in an interesting way. It's just a pity we weren't able to get a more rounded viewpoint of Hicks through the women in his life but that's in no way the fault of the film-makers. A towering achievement th... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 11:19, 29 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Most important stnd up ever

Really want to see this too, I hope it's playing in at least one Cineworld in London! I have watched a lot of stand up and no one has even come close to Bill Hicks. George Carlin and Lewis Black are both quite good (and at times very good) and their stand up is similar to Hicks' in style but it just doesn't have that genuine, spontaneous, no bullshit, rock and roll attitude Bill had. Other stand ups I enjoy are Eddie Izzard, Jerry Seinfeld and Dylan Moran but, again, their stand ... More

Posted by Edward Nygma at 17:07, 17 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Most important stnd up ever

It's not in Cineworld in Dublin either. Has it been released today in the UK? Anyone seen it?Any good? I was looking forward to seeing this! ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 20:17, 14 May 2010 | Report This Post


Most important stnd up ever

Even in that 10% of time he wasnt especially funny, he mateial was tremendously important and interesting. Truly the gresatest stand up. I cant find this on many places either, its on in Derby at the arty cinema but cant find many others. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by spideed2 at 13:22, 13 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: No doubt in my mind

Where is this playing? I can't find anything. ... More

Posted by odddaze at 10:33, 13 May 2010 | Report This Post


No doubt in my mind

Bill Hicks was the greatest stand-up ever, from mocking Christians and M C Hammer to rattle political cages he was unstoppable, still missed now. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ovverbruv at 19:35, 11 May 2010 | Report This Post


Can't wait! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bendoofus at 13:43, 10 May 2010 | Report This Post


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