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Gonzo: The Life And Work Of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

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Review byMatthew Turner27/10/2008

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 118 mins

Superbly directed, hugely entertaining documentary that's a treat for both newcomers and aficionados of Thompson's work.

What's it all about?
Directed by Alex Gibney, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson paints a fascinating portrait of one of America's most notorious journalists. The title, Gonzo, refers to the uniquely personal style of journalism that Thompson created, putting himself into the story and writing with a passionately partisan, no-holds-barred style that was both shocking and exhilarating at the same time.

Narrated by Johnny Depp (who played Thompson in Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), the film concentrates on Thompson's most productive period, between 1965 and 1975, using a wealth of material that includes audio clips, home movie footage, photos and lengthy passages from his books and articles, as well as interviews with friends, colleagues, people he wrote about (including former President Jimmy Carter) and both his ex-wives. There are also sections on the making of Fear and Loathing, Thompson's fascinating coverage of the 1972 Presidential campaign and even an acknowledgement that Thompson hated Garry Trudeau's caricature of him in his Doonesbury strip.

The Good
Thompson also had a legendary appetite for excess, particularly of the drink, drugs and guns variety and the film doesn't shy away from that side of things, just as Thompson himself embraced his lifestyle in his writing. The film also takes an unusually unsentimental view of his suicide in 2005, since Thompson had always said that he'd do it (his spectacular funeral, in which his ashes are fired from a rocket launcher, is also included and was apparently bankrolled by Depp).

The Great
Gibney keeps a tight grip on the material, spending just the right amount of time on each section before moving on. As such there are some terrific sequences, particularly the scenes involving Thompson's destruction of Edmund Muskie's 1972 campaign by talking about his addiction to a made-up drug called Ibogaine.

Worth seeing?
Gonzo is a hugely entertaining documentary that will have you running to the nearest bookshop to pick up Thompson's work. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

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Content updated: 18/08/2019 06:21

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