Documentary Review: "Danger God" (2019)
The Hollywood stuntman is a creature whose time hasn’t necessarily come and gone, but the times have certainly changed. Much of the business is green-screened and computerized, safe and sanitized. Once upon a time, however, there were men who lived life on the razor’s edge. They risked life and limb, especially in the desperation of the drive-in days, to get movies made on the cheap and make them look as badass as humanly possible. Enter legendary Hollywood stuntman Gary Kent.
Danger God is the story of stuntman/actor/producer/director Gary Kent. His life story sounds like something straight out of a Hollywood epic, so much so that Quentin Tarantino used Kent as one of the major figures (along with Burt Reynold’s stuntman, Hal Needham) as a composite basis for the Cliff Booth character played by Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. He’s broken all of his ribs. He regularly doubled for Jack Nicholson in the days of films like Hells Angels on Wheels and The Savage Seven. He had a run-in with Charles Manson and his family at the Spahn Movie Ranch prior to the murder of Sharon Tate. He’s worked in virtually every aspect of movie making across numerous eras and performed stunts until nearly 70 years old! A genuine tough guy and Hollywood giant revered by his peers, Gary Kent is also a sweet and charming man who’s lived a life full of love and heartache. His story is one hell of a ride that’s more than worthy of a documentary.
Danger God dives deep into Kent’s life. Director Joe O’Connell has made it a point to spend the entirety of the film with Gary Kent himself covering all aspects of his life, from his love life to various stunt madness to life as a director and a cancer survivor. Extensive clips of his work and interviews with friends and coworkers show a man who’s both revered and respected in all areas of his life. It’s a wise move to keep the focus on Gary in his own words without fancy embellishment or window dressing. It’s exactly the kind of documentary, presented with passion and respect, that I would get sucked right into when scrolling through the streaming channels for something engaging.
The production value could be more polished, but a good biography is rarely about the bells and whistles. The audio, in particular, vacillates between “what did he say?” and “holy shit, I’m going deaf!” It can be a bit jarring, but it’s never enough to take you away from a story that’s (pardon the pun) straight out of a Hollywood fantasy.
Given that this is the first rodeo for Joe O’Connell, I’d say he’s put together a solid 100 minutes on a man who deserves to be seen and appreciated by a wider audience, especially now that the game has changed so much on movie sets. Gary Kent is one of the pioneers of Hollywood’s most daring profession. It’s important to preserve that history, and O’Connell has given us a raw but worthy testament to one of the men whose footsteps are carved into movie sets everywhere.
Danger God is available on digital now and on DVD September 17th, 2019.
3.5 out of 5.0 stars