Movie review: “For No Good Reason” documentary takes a look at the illustrator behind “Gonzo”

From the July 3, 2014 edition

“I really thought that what I would do if I learned to draw properly was I would try to change the world.”

So says illustrator and painter Ralph Steadman at the beginning of the documentary “For No Good Reason.” Steadman did, indeed, learn to draw properly, and he did a pretty good job of changing the world in the process.

You are likely most familiar with Steadman’s work with the late Hunter S. Thompson. Steadman’s wild illustrations in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and other Thompson works have intrinsically linked the British illustrator and the purveyor of Gonzo journalism.

“For No Good Reason” features Steadman’s friend Johnny Depp — whom, of course, played Thompson in Terry Gilliam’s film adaptation of “Fear and Loathing.” Other key players are interviewed, including Gilliam and Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner.

With those players, the documentary is a must for Gonzo aficionados (myself included), obviously, and watching the development of Steadman’s style, as well as his fascinating process of spattering ink and paint, constructing and deconstructing.

The documentary doesn’t do much to expand beyond this core audience — and Depp’s interjection feels a bit much at times — but devotees will do well to see it on the big screen.

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics