While the process for Ralph Steadman’s art is undeniably engaging, the focus of this documentary is a bit too scattered to feel like a straightforward biopic. Instead, much of the film almost seems more interested in making a movie about deceased journalist and Steadman’s former Gonzo artistic collaborator, Hunter S. Thompson. While it may have been arguable which of the two were more politically driven or artistically inclined, Thompson is clearly the larger personality of the two, and Steadman becomes slightly overshadowed by his partner even in death.
Although the narrative can be more than little scattered while also somehow managing redundancies in storytelling, Joby Gee’s inventive editing manages to capture the spirit and essence of Steadman’s chaotic art. Much of his work is animated and inserted as a much more compelling alternative to the countless sequences of the artist in conversation with visiting actor Johnny Depp. There is also a great deal of archival footage, much of which is utilized in overlapping editing that shows how often and similarly Steadman’s stories have been told in the past. These are not new revelations about Steadman’s work, but rather an opportunity for fans to revel in the maniacal art and the methods which unearth each image.
Steadman’s art combined with Thompson’s method of inserting himself into the news story became the basis for Gonzo journalism, and is also what provides some of the more compelling stories in For No Good Reason. This is also where a majority of the film seems more interested in the friendship between these two artists/competitors than in Steadman’s artistic process. There are, however, sequences in which we witness the method behind his splatter-filled paintings. The film also gets caught up in the lucrative business of selling Steadman’s prints as “original” works, simply because he has dated and signed 800 copies of the exact same piece of art. I’m not sure how this constitutes calling the work an original piece of art, and I am certain that this practice would have disgusted Thompson, but the biggest problem is that footage and information like this has little to do with the rest of the narrative in For No Good Reason. Soon the title seems to be the explanation for making the documentary; while it has many engaging and entertaining bits collected and creatively edited, it is difficult to understand the point of the film.
The Blu-ray special features include a commentary track with director Charlie Paul and producer Lucy Paul. There are also deleted scenes, extended interviews from the film, a Q&A from the Toronto International Film Festival with Paul and Steadman, and an animated short utilizing some of Steadman’s work.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10
Historical Significance: 6/10