Magnolia Pictures
"Gonzo journalist" Hunter Thompson in Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney's documentary "Gonzo: The Life & Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson."

GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON — *** — Documentary feature about the late "gonzo journalist" Hunter S. Thompson; rated R (violence, drugs, profanity, nudity, vulgarity, sex, rape, slurs)

Given the sometimes-crazed reputation of its subject, it's a little surprising that the documentary "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson" comes across as a bit tame.

That doesn't mean that the content in the movie is tame. With its drug material and frank sexual language, "Gonzo" does earn its R rating. Rather, the "tameness" term describes the manner and style of filmmaking.

While on whole it's a solid and entertaining film, the storytelling is a little by-the-numbers and predictable. As informative as parts of it are, the movie is not nearly as colorful as longtime Aspen, Colo., resident Thompson.

In it, Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney ("Taxi to the Dark Side") profiles the late "gonzo journalist" Thompson, who took his life in 2005.

Thompson rose to prominence based on his mid-'60s book "Hell's Angels," which saw Thompson get unequaled access to the infamous motorcycle gang.

Then a series of popular and influential articles for Rolling Stone resulted in his beloved "Fear and Loathing" books, which combined journalistic interviews, first-person perspective and purely fictional contrivances. (All figured prominently into Thompson's unique "gonzo" writing style.)

Gibney tries to cover professional and personal aspects of Thompson's life. But he spends a little too much time looking at his involvement in the 1972 presidential election — which saw him taking sides for Democratic candidate George McGovern.

Also, it's odd to see Gibney re-create parts of his subject's life by using snippets from the feature films "Where the Buffalo Roam" (1980) and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (1998), in which Bill Murray and Johnny Depp played Thompson, respectively.

(Depp also reads some of Thompson's writings here, and you can hear him starting to slip into character at times.)

"Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson" is rated R for sometimes disturbing violent imagery (gunplay and movie clips, including Sept. 11 footage), strong drug content (use of and references to hallucinogenics and narcotics), strong sexual language (profanity, frank sex talk and vulgar slang), full male and female nudity, scenes depicting sex and sexual violence (rape), and some derogatory language. Running time: 120 minutes.


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