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For No Good Reason (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 89 minutes.

OK for children.

Fifteen years ago director Charlie Paul made a trip to Kent, England to meet one of his heroes, artist Ralph Steadman. He says that this film is “the culmination of my roots as a punk, art student, photographer and filmmaker in a multi-layered narrative, spun almost entirely from a single palette: the life and art of Ralph Steadman.”

Steadman became a buddy of “gonzo” journalist Hunter S Thompson and did all the artwork on his most famous book, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Whether or not you are an admirer of these people and their politics, this is still a fascinating look at a bizarre artist. Paul shows him making a painting from start to finish and the way he works is almost incomprehensible. He just throws some paint on a canvas (literally) and starts from there, saying, “Consciously I don’t know what I’m doing. I start a drawing and don’t know what will come out on the other end.” And we see him doing exactly that, explaining to Johnny Depp what he is doing as he is doing it.

As to Depp, the only reason he’s in the movie is to draw people to it. He provides absolutely nothing, if that. He doesn’t even ask meaningful questions, just follows Steadman around like an adoring lapdog wagging its tail.

Steadman says, “I try to make something that’s as unexpected to me as to anyone else.” What’s amazing is that what he does, does in fact turn out to be something that looks planned, even if it isn’t.

While he looks avuncular, what he did with Thompson certainly wasn’t. In fact, Rolling Stone editor Jann Werner, who appears throughout making comments, says, “Ralph was crazier than Hunter.”

There are interesting archival films shot by Paul of Thompson and Steadman interspersed throughout the film. In short, even if you’ve never heard of Steadman and have never read anything by Thompson, this is still an interesting film.