Being Evel review: A dramatic, deeply involving documentary into the iconic daredevil Evel Knievel that pleases from the off.
I make no apologies in stating from the off that I was a huge fan of dare-devil Evel Knievel as a kid. Having been born in 1977 a full two years after Knievel made his last big jump, my huge interest in the stuntman baffles me, but I remember watching hours of footage of his great stunts, and even owned the wind-up motorcycle toy featuring Evel on topm which I played with for hours on end. I, like many, kind of idolised him.
This new biographical documentary from Dickhouse, the production company behind Jackass, focusses on the life of Knievel from his early days in Butte, Montana, as a petty thief, all of the way through to international super-stardom jumping fountains in Las Vegas and London buses in Wembley Stadium. Director Daniel Junge (Beyond The Brick: A LEGO Documentary) employs a talking head approach to his film featuring old friends, family members and colleagues of Knievel’s, all cut together with archive photographs and TV footage sprinkled within. His well-researched effort, which is superbly assembled, gathers its information and presents it superbly.
The film features every detail from Evel’s career; every jump near enough, his flamboyance behind his extravagant private life, including his well-reported womanising, his arrest for assaulting his former press officer, and his eventual leaving the public eye and retiring into relative obscurity. Then there’s his kind of ‘revival’ as the X-Games, extreme sports, as well as Jackass became popular at the start of the century. Johnny Knoxville also appears, as well as serves as executive producer, and of course, adds much of the more comedic moments to proceedings with his expletive-ridden insight and obvious admiration for the motorbike hero.
As with all good documentaries, the subject matter shouldn’t dissuade you from catching Being Evel, as the film really grabs you from the opening few moments, and one becomes more and more interested in of this extraordinary life as it progresses. In fact, it works better if you don’t know too much about the man behind the bike, whose life is so extraordinary that it’s almost unbelievable.
As flamboyant as Liberace, and as famous as Elvis, Knievel really lived life on the edge, and it’s surprising that a dramatisation has still to grace our screens – it’s crying out for it (in fact, we hear that Channing Tatum is to produce and potentially star in a future movie).
An easy-going documentary that may just pull on those heartstrings towards the end. Great to see George Hamilton make an appearance too. Well worth seeking out.
Being Evel review by Paul Heath, October 2015.
Being Evel is screening at the 2015 BFI London Film Festival. The film is still to have a general UK release announced, but was released across the North American territories in August, 2015.