Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe to Empire!
Save up to 63%
Halo 5 Guardians
The Master Chief returns
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

Click poster to enlarge
More posters to select

Bill Hicks
Mary Hicks
Dwight Slade
Kevin Booth.
Matt Harlock
Paul Thomas.
Running Time
TBC minutes

Mad Max: Fury Road
5 Star Empire Rating
A Royal Night Out
3 Star Empire Rating
Danny Collins
4 Star Empire Rating
Insidious: Chapter 3
3 Star Empire Rating
San Andreas
2 Star Empire Rating

Mad Max: Fury Road
5 Star Empire Rating
My Darling Clementine
5 Star Empire Rating
Third Man, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Monty Python’s Life Of Brian [steel book]
5 Star Empire Rating
Still Alice
5 Star Empire Rating

American: The Bill Hicks Story
About A Goat-boy

submit to reddit

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.

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


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.

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

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

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

Denis Villeneuve Talks Sicario
On his cartel thriller and the upcoming Blade Runner sequel

Tomorrowland: The Viewing Guide
Brad Bird talks through his sci-fi adventure, scene by scene

Empire Meets Ridley Scott
The great director on The Martian, Blade Runner 2 and the Prometheus sequels

My Movie Life: Justin Kurzel
The Macbeth director on how Rocky changed his life and the worst ever date movie

Life On Mars: Trips To The Red Planet
A dozen of cinema's Martian misadventures

All Hail Macbeth! The Scottish Play On Film
By the pricking of our thumbs, ten adaptations this way come(s)

10 Star Wars: The Force Awakens Toys You’ll Want To Own
Falcon quad copter? BB-8 Sphero? We’re already asking for pay raises…

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Empire print magazine

Delivered to your door – with exclusive subscriber only covers each month! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Empire digital magazine

Exclusive and enhanced content – get instant access via your iPad or Android device! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe now and save up to 63%
Print, Digital & Package options available Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)