A tightly wound bundle of everything and its oppositean anti-authoritarian who ran for sheriff of Aspen, a peace-loving gun nut, an iconoclast who relished winners as much as any football coachthe late Hunter S. Thompson pioneered what might be called psychic-war correspondence: corrosive inner dispatches from the long goodbye of 60s idealism. Alex Gibneys fascinating doc makes Thompson a complex, looming presence, using the authors words (read by Johnny Depp) as rueful commentary. Buttressed by interviews with his collaborators (including illustrator Ralph Steadman), archival snippets, and vintage Thompson footage, the bulk of Gibneys film is devoted to just three books: Hells Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and his last major work, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72a trilogy that made Thompson a counterculture idol as well as a literal and figurative cartoon character. As director, Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) relies too often on glib simplification and smirky music montages of social unrest. But by refocusing attention on Thompsons blazing gift, however unevenly it burned, Gonzo reclaims him from the fate he described for the Angels: The mystique was stretched so thin it finally became transparent.
July 4-17, 2008