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Review – Being Evel

Being Evel Poster

Evel Knievel.  Despite the fact that he was just a daredevil motorcyclist from the 70’s, he’s still remembered today with a look and mythos as distinct and recognizable as any king of rock and roll.  That he is still as much of a household name as he is certainly says something and this film take a glimpse at how he came to be.

Produced by modern day daredevil idiot, Johnny Knoxville of Jackass infamy, this documentary starts from beginning, before he ever jumped a motorized bike over anything.  We meet Robert Knievel, a young man always crossing the line – whether it be by making motorcycles do things they shouldn’t, or by cheating Olympic hockey teams out of large amounts of money.  It isn’t until he schemes his way into being a self-made celebrity by concocting a daring motorcycle leap in Vegas, pandering to the press, that he finds something to channel all his energy into.

I’ve always been aware of Evel Knievel, for as long as I can remember.  I didn’t know much about him, but I knew him as an icon.  I never realized just how big of a celebrity he was, in his day, or just how much influence on the course of modern day sports he really had.  It’s fascinating to learn just who this legendary man was and what he did during his life of adrenaline and pride filled exploits.

Despite the involvement of the likes of Knoxville, this is, for the most part, a very factual and relatively complete account of Knievel’s life from start to finish.  It’s not a silly story about crashes and motorcycle jumps with rude comments and weird outtakes.  There is some language in the commentary however, and some nudity in some of the archival footage, so this might not be quite appropriate for some younger action sports fans.

Despite seeming to be a fairly complete record of Knievel’s life – at least the highlight reel version – it seems lacking somehow.  There is so much hinted at about what made this man tick, but the person himself is never really looked at too deeply.  We skim the surface of facts but it doesn’t quite become the meaningful experience an exploration of such an influential and troubled man’s life could be.

The film also leaves off what I think is a crucial bit of the closing chapter of his life, which is Knievel’s very public turn to Christianity shortly before his death.  Even that was done in a way that reflected his showmanship and is a remarkably interesting way to close out the life of one who spent so much “being Evel”.  It’s a shame the film only just barely alludes to this, since, regardless of the viewer’s beliefs, I think it’s a fascinating part of the journey of a fascinating man.

It could have been so much more if it delved deeper, but still, Being Evel is an excellent, entertaining, and rather thorough introduction to the world’s most famous daredevil.

Mrs Hamster did not screen this film

My rating: Three out of five hats

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Trailer:

Being Evel leaps into select theaters and VOD August 21

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