Film

Ralph Steadman Doc For No Good Reason Keeps With the Spirit of Hunter S. Thompson

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Finding form in chaos, Ralph Steadman became famous illustrating the writing of Hunter S. Thompson and made a subsequent career out of speaking truth to power via activist-minded art.

For No Good Reason details the famed wild-man cartoonist’s career with a stylistic daring that doesn’t quite match its subject’s, but is nonetheless in keeping with his unconventional spirit.

Using as its foundation interviews between Steadman and Johnny Depp — who played Thompson in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and who here stops by to chat at Steadman’s home office — and splicing together a wealth of photos, film footage, and shots of him at work, director Charlie Paul creates a kinetic sense of the man’s lifelong desire to “change the world” through antagonistic and “angry” compositions.

A sequence in which the documentarian flip-flops between three different, equally crazy anecdotes about Steadman’s adventures with Thompson most fully captures the duo’s gonzo spirit, though his raft of split-screens, animated segments, and momentous pans around Steadman’s workspace don’t greatly alter the general straightforwardness of the material.

Still, in images of Steadman fashioning wrist-flicked paint splotches into something coherent and commanding, it’s a film that paints a potent portrait of an artist of righteous, controlled fury.