Bob Ray, Austin’s newish lowbrow Maysles brother, has taken his two latest features on the road, comprising the pro-am doc equivalent to being piss-drunk and lost in a tattoo alley in Texas. Most beguilingly, Total Badass (2010) chronicles the life of notorious Austin reprobate and chemical hog Chad Holt, who lives in a friend’s garage, sells weed (on camera), fronts punk bands, puts out a freebie magazine packed with his Hunter Thompson–esque memoirs of sexual sleaze and dope consumption, and generally lives as if he’s an artist pursuing a vision when in reality he’s the city’s most complete fuckup. Holt comes off charmingly as equal parts Texan Keith Moon and crispy Richard Benjamin, talking blue streaks and rolling joints in his probation officer’s parking lot, but Ray obviously foresaw the man’s spiral from gutter to abyss. Rubbernecking fun though it is, Holt’s trajectory becomes—big surprise—creepy and despairing. Ray’s second film, Hell on Wheels (2007), is by comparison an almost wholesome chronicle of the origins of the roller-derby renaissance, beginning with a single two-team league of bighearted redneck Austin broads, who quickly take over and must run the business themselves. Management compromises prove more demanding than the races; tough-talking Xenas that they are, the derby chicks still resort to oil-wrestling fundraisers.
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