New Review of Hunter S. Thompson Documentary
Greencine.com just posted my film review of Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride, a 2006 documentary on Hunter S. Thompson that is about to be released on DVD. Here's the full text of my review:
According to none other than acclaimed author Tom Wolfe (The Right Stuff) in Tom Thurman's documentary Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride: Hunter S. Thompson on Film, the gonzo journalist was one of the greatest comic writers of our time. It turns out that much of Hollywood made pilgrimages to visit Thompson at his home of many years in Woody Creek, Colorado, and many are interviewed in this engaging film, including John Cusack, Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn, Gary Busey, Ed Bradley, Bill Murray and Johnny Depp (who lived in his basement for a while and described himself as a partner in crime with Thompson after they initially bonded over their mutual hometown of Louisville, Kentucky). "If you let Thompson into your psyche, he has this way of slipping in and out from time to time and continuing to inhabit you for the rest of your life." This was the cautionary advice Murray gave Depp over the phone just before Depp played a character based on Thompson (Raoul Duke) in the 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Murray knew all too well, having already portrayed Thompson himself in the underrated 1980 cult movie Where the Buffalo Roam (which co-starred Peter Boyle and Bruno Kirby). Thompson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in February of 2005, and his ashes have since been shot out of a large cannon shaped like a two-thumbed fist (paid for by Depp and envisioned by Thompson) on the property of his Owl Farm in Woody Creek. This film (originally produced for the Starz channel) has been made as a sort of love note back to Thompson, with plenty of rarely seen, candid footage of the wily man himself, often in his kitchen telling stories or elsewhere in private settings, although his actual words are sometimes garbled and nearly indiscernible. There is likewise a rather incomprehensible narration by none other than raspy, ravaged-sounding Nick Nolte.
Of course in the land of the weird that Thompson loved to occupy, it all works just fine, even after you factor in the opening scenes with actor Gary Busey directing the director on how to shoot the interview with him at his beach house, or the ending of the film with actor Harry Dean Stanton singing truly the most God awful rendition of the Irish song "Danny Boy" I've ever heard. The whole spectacle, frankly, is just plain astonishing—there are clearly forces at work here that we won't understand for quite some time (sorry, just channeling Thompson again). In short, this is an important film for all serious fans of the late great Thompson, and anyone else who wants to get a sense of who this lunatic (used affectionately), this master of weird, the colonel of calamity, really was. There has been no one else like Hunter S. Thompson--he influenced so many creative types from all mediums, and he deserves to be admired as much now as he was when he was in his often inebriated, imperturbable skin.
Footnote: The 2006 film F*ck by Steve Anderson was dedicated to Hunter S. Thompson. He was interviewed for the film and committed suicide shortly thereafter.