Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) sets out to rescue gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson from his cartoonish persona, and this hugely entertaining documentary returns the focus to his writing in all its force, precision and moral clarity. The interviewees (among them Jann Wenner, Tom Wolfe, Timothy Crouse, Ralph Steadman, Gary Hart, Pat Buchanan, George McGovern and Jimmy Carter) retail all the old stories of blown deadlines and drug-fueled writing binges, but they also reveal a man who cared deeply about his country and his art. Though Thompson's long slide into irrelevance in the '80s and '90s is duly noted, most of the movie covers his glory days during the Vietnam era, when he was arguably the most exciting and important literary talent in America.
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (R), directed by Alex Gibney. Beach Theatre, Fri., Sept. 5, 8 p.m. followed at 10:30 p.m. by Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, starring Johnny Depp as Thompson and Benicio Del Toro as Thompson's "lawyer." Tickets $7 for each, or $10 for both films. The double feature will be presented again Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. 315 Corey Ave., St. Pete Beach, 727-360-6697, beachtheatre.com.