Sydney Film Festival Review: Gimme Danger (USA, 2016)

Gimme Danger turns the amp up to 11 and never turns down for a second in its nearly two hour running time. Super loud, super charged, and super excellent, this documentary charting the rise, quick demise, and subsequent reunion of The Stooges is one hell of a good time.

Written and directed by super fan Jim Jarmusch (the film begins with a voiceover from Jarmusch declaring The Stooges as the best rock band of all time), Gimme Danger plays as an extended love letter to the band, albeit one that forgoes the sweet remarks for a ton of expletives and plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour added for good measure. Remarkably this is only Jarmusch’s second documentary, his first being Year of the Horse, which followed Neil Young on tour and was astonishingly released almost 20 years ago. As you may expect from the genius behind masterpiece films such as Coffee and Cigarettes and Broken Flowers, Jarmusch has a true knack for the genre, telling the tale of Iggy Pop and Co. with great aplomb.

Iggy (who is credited here under his real name James Osterberg Jnr) serves as principal narrator of the film, though his other band mates guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer Scott Asheton, and guitarist and former Sony executive James Williamson all make frequent appearances throughout the documentary as talking heads to put their own spin on the band’s notorious history. Appearances by the now deceased Asheton brothers are perhaps most poignant, with the film being dedicated to both them and other deceased band members (such as original bassist Dave Alexander).

The film is a perfect tribute to the band, and has a lot to offer to fans both diehard and new. Sitting somewhere in the middle of these two categories I found great joy in watching the antics of The Stooges unfold on the screen before me, and I thoroughly enjoyed having the gaps in my knowledge of the band filled out for me in such spectacular fashion. Iggy serves as the perfect narrator, and it is clear that he takes great pleasure in sharing the stories that made the band so infamous in the late sixties and early seventies.

It’s obvious from the outset that this is a film about The Stooges however, and not just Iggy, a fact which is evident as the film completely skips over his successful solo career. Jarmusch seems to have taken to heart the band’s early self-proclaimed “communist” creed that all members were treated as equal, and indeed, each of their stories receive ample screen time. The audience sees it all – from the great early successes of the band to their darkest moments – nothing is glossed over. The fact that the story comes straight from the horse’s mouth is the film’s greatest achievement, and it is a true testament to Iggy that he leaves no stone unturned.

Overall, Gimme Danger goes down as one of Jarmusch’s best works, and should surely be recognised as one of the great music documentaries of recent years. Honest, insightful, and downright hilarious, it is a fitting tribute to the anarchic yet masterful band The Stooges.    

Review Score: FOUR AND HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Gimme Danger screened as part of the Sydney Film Festival.