- Rated R
All photos © Red General Catalog
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ast year, critics went crazy for “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” a documentary about a duo of failed musicians from Canada so obsessed with success that their friendship eventually suffered because of it. So basically, it was a movie about a couple of self-entitled losers who weren’t really that talented to begin with. It was an interesting study of a man so desperate to become famous that he would do just about anything to get it, but if you’re looking for a music doc about a real rock and roll legend who couldn’t care less about fame, then “Lemmy” is probably a little more up your alley.
That’s not to say that Lemmy Kilmister, the magnetic frontman of heavy metal band Motörhead, is a saint. In fact, he’s far from it. Not only does he chain smoke and drink like a fish, but he’s also pretty open about his recreational use of amphetamines. And at the ripe age of 64, he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. What’s most interesting about Lemmy, though, isn’t that he’s still alive and kicking, but rather that despite his heavy drinking and drug use, none of his colleagues can remember a single time it’s caused him to act unprofessionally. The idea of a rock god who’s also a responsible businessman may sound a bit oxymoronic, but that’s exactly what’s at the heart of Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski’s crowd-pleasing rockumentary.
Through interviews with close friends and fellow musicians, “Lemmy” tracks the career of the godfather of heavy metal, from his time with the space rock band Hawkwind to a special guest appearance at a recent Metallica concert. Along the way, Olliver and Orshoski take a closer look at the man behind the legend, including segments about his unique fashion sense, his love of WWII memorabilia, and his musical influences. Believe it or not, Lemmy lists The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Little Richard among his personal favorites, and even considers the latter to be the true originator of rock and roll.
Just as Lemmy has an incredible respect for the musicians that preceded him, so do those that follow in his footsteps. There’s not a negative thing to be said about the guy (except, perhaps, from his former Hawkwind bandmates), and it shows not only in the anecdotes that each one tells (Dave Grohl and Scott Ian have some of the funniest), but in the numerous compliments about him, both as a man and a musician. The film’s best moments, however, are also some of the most intimate – a behind-the-scenes look at a man who leads a fairly quiet life when he’s not up on stage, whether its sitting at the Rainbow Room playing a bar-top trivia game or perusing Amoeba Records for a copy of the new Beatles box set in mono. (He doesn't find one on the shelves, but the store's owner gladly gives up her personal copy because, well, it's fucking Lemmy.)
Though it’s necessary to show all these different versions of Lemmy to best explain his legend, the film does begin to run a little long towards the end, as if Olliver and Orshoski had so much great footage that they couldn’t decide on a natural ending. The film has also been thrown together in a very strange fashion, with absolutely no rhyme or reason as to why certain segments appear before others, particularly in regards to some of the more biographical material. Even with its flaws, however, “Lemmy” is pure entertainment. Most rock stars probably wouldn't appreciate a documentary that exploits their personality for laughs, but the great thing about Lemmy is that he’s in on the joke.