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73

Generally favorable reviews - based on 28 Critics What's this?

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7.3

Generally favorable reviews- based on 13 Ratings

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  • Summary: From Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney and producer Graydon Carter comes a probing look into the uncanny life of national treasure and gonzo journalism inventor Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. A fast-moving, wildly entertaining documentary with an iconic soundtrack, the film addresses the major touchstones in Thompson's life--his intense and ill-fated relationship with the Hells Angels, his near-successful bid for the office of sheriff in Aspen in 1970, the notorious story behind the landmark Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, his deep involvement in Senator George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign, and much more. Narrated by Johnny Depp. (Magnolia Pictures) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 28
  2. Negative: 0 out of 28
  1. The movie also captures Thompson's tragedy: the haze of drugs and bad writing that consumed him for no less than his last 30 years.
  2. 90
    Gibney's immensely funny and sad new motion picture Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson -- the "Dr." was a mail-order divinity degree -- is principally intended to rehabilitate Thompson and introduce his work to a new audience.
  3. 88
    It leaves you wondering, how was it that so many people liked this man who does not seem to have liked himself?
  4. An amused and affectionate look at the writer who formed a crucial link between the New Journalism of the 1960s and today's blogosphere.
  5. Reviewed by: Jim Ridley
    70
    While the evidence of his spotty post-1970s work is hard to refute, Gonzo proves what a vapid, overvalued commodity edginess is, championing Thompson's best work for brass-tacks insight more than brass-balled outrage.
  6. 67
    Because there was anarchy and randomness in Thompson's life and work, you find it in Gonzo.
  7. It seems to celebrate him more for his attitude, his fashionably leftist politics, his fame and his friendships than for any meaningful accomplishment.

See all 28 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 5
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 5
  3. Negative: 0 out of 5
  1. TomW.
    Nov 18, 2008
    9
    Absolutely brilliant shows insight to work of Thompson and its impact on our society.
  2. SerrinA.
    Jul 5, 2008
    8
    First matinee, opening day, on the world-famous 4th of July: theater one-third full. Audience primarily domesticated primates along with bats and gila monsters. While leaving home, did not know if there'd be two other guys in there or if it'd be sold out. Mandatory viewing for the HST fan satisfying Life Completion Requirements. Suggested viewing for the HST-curious. Was mildly surprised by how well regarded he was by mainstream famous figures interviewed (McGovern, Carter, Buchanon, etc). Of course, nothing boosts one's popularity more than a visit from the Grim Reaper. The 'declining years' segment of the film demonstrated that he was out of steam and knew it, suggesting that 'out with a bang' was the most logical option for The Doomed. When looking up reviews, was also surprised by the 'sexual content' and 'nudity' warnings. Was expecting 'drug content' and 'language,' to be sure, concluded that there must be an interview where he's simply outside, walking around naked while talking to camera. Turns out he enjoyed the classical Underground Literary Bad Boy Party Life of the era, a la Philip K Dick... an amusing scene comes to mind where he's simply showing some pictures to a couple of guests; they're asking questions, he's pointing at things--perfectly average example of 'entertaining guests.' The guests just happen to be naked ladies (and in grievous contrast to HST's standard attire). Will concur with official professional reviewer observation above regarding tried-and-tawdry pop song selection. Would wager HST listened to most of them once... but as far as I'd know, they were among his favorites and should best shut up. Damn! Out of ibogaine. Expand
  3. Dec 14, 2010
    7
    As a long time fan of Hunter S Thompson and Ralph Steadman - who I was introduced to at about 16 or 17 by their book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Having come from a very disturbing family - with it's equally destructive consequences, instead of being equipped with a great range of life skills, almost every shred of self esteem had been torn from me, and thus the only people who I could have hung out with were similarly affected people into drugs, motorcycles and generally very self destructive life styles; When I read the part where Thompson describes going way too fast into a cloverleaf on or off ramp, stoned off his **** on everything, and doing a huge power slide all the time, and having this motorbike cop come pull him over and come up to him white with fear, and how he **** his way out of it with "just being a bit tired"....

    I mean I was a seriously **** up kid who was in with a bunch of other seriously **** up people - all doing drugs, and I was stoned as I read the book... and I was thinking that this was "seriously inspirational // comedic reading".

    However the drugs stopped being a back door to reality and about some 15 or even 18 years after getting drug free I reread that book and I thought, "What a crock of drug **** bullshit".

    In the following sentence I will use the word shit - and by that I mean "nurturing, interactive relationships, etc., I guess tho, at that time I read it, when the only shit you get to eat, is dirt flavoured crumbs, a real bread crumb of brighter significance is better than nothing, and it's better than dirt flavoured crumbs.

    So in one respect HST, and Ralph Steadman were great influences for both good and bad - or perhaps significant points in an unmanageable life.

    I saw the show on TV last night.... and I watched the start of it.. and had to tune out for a while because of the drug **** bullshit that was going on.

    Then I tuned back into it, and I saw that HST was another man, from another time, with his own agendas and politics. I also saw just how **** up a lot of American culture is that this drug **** idiot (HST) was, and how many people were prepared to put up with his shit....

    I also saw that as he got older and lived more and more on his ranch, with the booze, the other drugs and the **** around - along with the guns and crap... just how much he was like the drug **** idiot who lives a few doors down the street from me. The guy wakes up and takes a slab of pills and has a skin full of piss and staggers around glassy eyed on welfare and just out of his mind and talking shit And seeing Thompson walking around in his later years with the bottle of booze in his hand........

    As one of the critics said, "He lived on his celebrity status for the last 30 years of his life".

    I felt it was really sad that he went out as a cop out and the end of it was really sad.

    About Hunter talking about how he wants his ashes to be shot out of the top of a huge monument, and how at the Final Send Off, that is just what happened. I thought that the Logans Run "crystal in the palm" was part of the monument....

    6 months before he shot himself, I wrote him a letter - he never answered.

    It was sort of good that that part of my life has ended. There was a sense of permanent closure. I was appreciative of his taking on Nixon and many other things, but where people need to escape from reality - through drugs, sex and some kind of mood or mind altering experiences, then they are not really living - they are just wind up shells, who spend their time going through the motions.

    I am glad that he lived and that he made his contributions - but take away the hype and the drug **** pop cult bullshit of his time, and how he slowly fizzed out into obscurity....

    I am not sure if I am influenced by or contaminated with his persona......

    The movie, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it's one of the few movies I do own, and that was done exactly as per the book.... Johnny Depp and HST - and Ralph Steadman - that was a work of genius in the replication of the story and images, into a moving picture.

    Too bad the drug **** life style - although it does have it's funny parts, it's all bullshit, it's all a futile waste of **** time and opportunities.

    I felt the song by Warren Zevon - "Send Lawyers, Guns and Money" played at the shooting of his ashes into the sky - was a sad, but fitting closure to Hunter S. Thompson's life and the documentary.
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  4. JayHiggins
    Nov 13, 2008
    6
    Well done documentary about an interesting but very unlikeable person. Thorough in it's research, excellent archive footage and well edited. Although Hunter S Thompson is interesting, I am not enthralled with his life. Expand
  5. Aug 12, 2014
    6
    Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson: 6 out of 10: Is Hunter S Thompson any more relevant to modern journalism than Joe Namath is to modern football? After all, both were men of their times. In addition, both faded badly by the mid-seventies. Thompson's early work is excellent (a copy of "The Proud Highway" sits on my bookshelf) and reached its pinnacle with Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.

    A mere three years later Rolling Stone publisher Jenn Warner had become so fed up with Thompson he basically tried to have him killed.

    As Gonzo.org puts it "Then, early one evening in March 1975, Hunter was watching a nightmarish film of the evacuation of Da Nang on the evening news. The phone rang, and Hunter picked it up. It was Wenner, saying, "How would you like to go to Vietnam?" Hunter could not resist. The collapse of the American empire was a happening tailor-made for his talents. Within days, he was heading out over the Pacific. He arrived in Saigon hours after Thieu's palace had been bombed and staffed by his own Air Force. For a man who lived with the conviction that the world was going to end next Monday, this was an especially ominous portent. Thompson had the sense of "walking into a death camp." This was it. He would never get out alive. As it turned out, the fate that was in store for him was even worse. Thompson discovered that, even as he was on his way to Vietnam, Wenner had taken him off retainer - in effect, fired him - and with the retainer went his staff benefits, including health and life insurance." Also leaving him no way out of Vietnam... a one-way ticket if you will.

    Dude that is cold...

    And that is the very nature of the problem with this documentary. Why is not this story mentioned? Who knows? It certainly was a turning point in Thompsons life (He apparently became more withdrawn and paranoid afterwards... understandably so) Gonzo is a pollyanna look at Thompson. The abuse of his first marriage gets a glancing look and all the interviewees (Including Jimmy Carter, Pat Buchanan and Jenn Werner) seem hesitant to speak ill of the dead.

    The fact that in a few short years Thompson turned from a well-respected writer into a Muppet and Doonesbury cartoon is not covered well. The fact is mentioned but the reasons are glossed over. It is as if the film is worried that by mentioning his failures it will reduce his significance.

    Yet, I would argue that Thompson's effect on Journalism is larger than he gets credit for. Reporters nowadays often ignore facts, concentrating instead on how events make them feel. Anderson Cooper crying during the Hurricane Katrina coverage threatened to become a bigger story than the storm itself. (He was not helped when fellow Mensa candidate Wolf Blitzer said "You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals…many of these people, almost all of them that we see are so poor and they are so black") The documentary never really focuses on this aspect either. Gonzo seems to fear pulling back any of the masks its subject wears presumably scared of what it might find. Gonzo would have been better served concentrating on one period of time and focusing its energies.

    That said, for those unfamiliar with Hunter S Thompson outside of his Muppet form this is a good start. Moreover, if it gets people to read his early work so much the better.
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