Jim Reviews

This is going to be a two part review because if I am going to be as honest as I pride myself on being I have to admit upfront that it is almost impossible for me to be objective about this film. Almost.

From this point forward everything in regular font is my fair minded, objective critical take and everything in bold is my harshly biased Motörhead fanatic slant. You've been warned.

As I said in my review of The Doors documentary "When You're Strange" I find most of the hyperbolic demagoguery (side note: the Microsoft Word thesaurus has no synonyms listed for demagoguery) associated with certain rock acts to be silly at best. John Lennon wasn't a prophet. He was a guy who wrote some good songs ("Imagine" is not one of them. "Imagine" is a pretentious sentimentality masquerading as profundity. I do not care if you disagree, so save it). Jim Morrison wasn't a shaman/warrior poet of the counterculture. He was an egotistical asshole who wrote some decent songs and laughably awful poetry.

That being said, Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister is GOD! It's true. Everything he does is awesome and he will never die!

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For those unaware, Lemmy Kilmister is the bassist, lead singer, and only consistent member of the band Motörhead, which is both the loudest band in the world (Verified by Guinness) and the greatest rock and roll band on the planet.

At the age of 65 (just younger than my parents) he is a bit of a medical marvel. He still drinks, smokes, and ingests enough speed to kill your average hard partying rock musician, stands in front of speakers blaring at over 125 decibels almost nightly without losing his hearing, and records damned near an album a year.

During the course of Motörhead's 35 year history he has been elevated to the status of superhuman by some, and God himself by others because of how incredible awesome both he and his music are.

Finally, after years of touring and kicking inordinate amounts of ass, someone has decided to make a feature length documentary about the man known the world over as Lemmy.

Two things I need to get out of the way right off the bat.

1) This film is too damned long. Much as I love documentaries you really have to earn a one hour fifty six minute running time. This one almost did, but you really do feel the length near the end.

2) Although this film is solidly entertaining and appealing outside of the world of the metal head, I don't really think this is for everyone. If you are into metal but not Motörhead you will probably still dig it. If you aren't into metal or Motörhead then you may enjoy it, but there is just as much chance that you will not.

So, how do you do a movie about someone who has a musical career spanning 45 years during which time he:

1) Was a roadie for Jimi Hendrix.

2) Played guitar for the legendary "space rock" band Hawkwind.

3) Has played with bands as varied as The Damned, The Rockin' Vicars, Probot, and The Head Cat (a rockabilly group).

4) Written songs for Ozzy Osbourne.

5) Far, far too many other things to catalogue.

The depth and breadth of his career makes the very prospect of this film far too epic to even consider rationally. And in many ways it suffers from it and in other ways it is the greatest documentary ever made because of it.

It becomes pretty obvious early on that there isn't really a solid focus here. This isn't a chronological look at his life, it's not a look at his musical career in the strictest sense, and it's not a groundbreaking expose of the most awesome man in rock and roll.

Perhaps the most accurate and appropriate descriptor is "character study." It's a mixture of interviews with fans, other musicians, former band mates, current band members, and Lemmy himself that only seem to be organized around the theme of "this is what makes Lemmy awesome and the reasons why he is still relevant."

The real problem with this film is that it lacks focus. Although character study is the most accurate term it still cycles through all the other types of film I listed above, but doesn't ever commit fully to being any of them. Had it just been about Motörhead over the past 35 years that would have been amazing. Had it been about Lemmy and his influence over music in general that would have been amazing. Had it been about just the man, and what it's like to have a Grammy and a few gold records but still be somewhat outside the mainstream that would have been interesting. Had it been a straight biography... well, you get where I'm going. The problem is that it tries to be all of these things and in doing so ends up feeling a bit overwhelmed and unfocused and stretched just a bit too thin.

There are some wonderful and natural moments with other musicians (an early scene with Dave Grohl is one of the best examples of life caught on film I've ever come across) but they come a little too early and there aren't nearly enough of them.

The bulk of the film is divided between interviews with other prominent musicians about the appeal of Mr. Kilmister and long interviews with the man himself. Sadly, the interviews get a bit redundant at times. Don't get me wrong, not every interview is the same but there are some consistent threads.

The interviews with Lemmy are... well pretty damned surreal. Most of them are conducted in his unassuming two bedroom apartment in Los Angeles (two blocks from The Rainbow Room, where he spends most of his time) where you learn about his two sons (the one he is in contact with and the other who doesn't even know who his father is), his love of military history and war memorabilia (He has a lot of Nazi stuff, but claims not to be a Nazi and that "If Israel had the coolest uniforms I'd collect them, but they don't.).

I could go on with odd details and interesting moments, but that's not really the aim here. Essentially this is a somewhat interesting movie (that could have been much better had it been 30 minutes shorter) with a very specific audience that (but which can be appreciated outside of that niche market) about an interesting man.

That being said, I did enjoy it and would probably enjoy it more sitting on my couch than I did sitting in a theatre. I do recommend it, but not to everyone. However, if you do watch it I think you will find something to enjoy in it even if you think you won't.

The movie is like Lemmy itself. It's honest, fairly direct, and lasts a bit longer than you think it possibly could.



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