Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr Hunter S Thompson (15)

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The Independent Culture

There are several times in this docuportrait of raving reporter and counter-culture spearhead Hunter S Thompson when friends observe that he was trapped by his own legend: American celebrity moved in, as it so often does, and the writing dried up.

Film-maker Alex Gibney seems to have fallen prey to that legend, for, despite a lively tour d'horizon of the social and political convulsions that Thompson feverishly chronicled, this portrait never pays its subject the honour of suspicion.

Famous contemporaries – Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Carter, John McGovern et al – line up to pay tribute to the writer, who killed himself in 2005, while Johnny Depp narrates and quotes from Thompson's work, yet at no point does Gibney really investigate Thompson's dark side, not the ubiquitous drugs so much as the obsession with guns, the serial infidelities and a volcanically severe temper that one can almost hear in the testimony of his two wives. Some of the quoted journalism raises a smile – I love his description of Nixon as "America's answer to Mr Hyde" – but judged against the standards of Gibney's previous work (Enron, Taxi to the Dark Side) this soft-headed hagiography is a disappointment, and at least half an hour too long.