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With: Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp, Jimmy Carter, Tom Wolfe, Pat Buchanan, George McGovern, Jimmy Buffet, Tim Crouse, Sonny Barger, Ralph Steadman, Jann Wenner, Gary Hart, Sondi Wright, Douglas Brinkley, Juan Thompson, George Stranahan, Bob Braudis, Charles Perry, Oscar Acosta, Pat Caddell, Anita Thompson
Written by: Alex Gibney
Directed by: Alex Gibney
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 118
Date: 01/20/2008

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2008)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Fear and Closing

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The closing night feature, Alex Gibney's Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, starts on the wrong foot with the usual collection of talking heads, narration, photos, clips and period pop songs (complete with the "tantalizing first two minutes" setup montage). I couldn't help thinking that this was such a timid approach for a film about such a radical, groundbreaking scribbler, but over the course of its 118 minutes, the film delves into enough uncomfortable, fascinating mix-and-match material that even Dr. Gonzo might have approved. Johnny Depp, who played a version of Thompson in Terry Gilliam's underrated Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), reads choice selections of Thompson's prose on the Hell's Angels, Las Vegas and the campaign trails of 1972 and 1976. And Gibney interviews Thompson's ex-wives, long-suffering editors, ex-presidents and presidential hopefuls, and of course, the ink-splattering madman Ralph Steadman, who provided artwork for most of Thompson's stories. Gibney digs up all kinds of archive footage, from grainy, half-stolen stuff, to a television game show ("will the real Hunter S. Thompson please stand up?"). There's even a clip from Bill Murray's forgotten Hunter movie, Where the Buffalo Roam (1980). Best of all, Pat Buchanan turns up and -- like in An Unreasonable Man -- he comes across as surprisingly normal and likeable! Overall, Gonzo contains rather a dazzling collection of riches, and even a longtime fan like myself found new things to savor. Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

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