2016, Movies

Hired Gun (2016, Fran Strine)

This is one of those documentaries that tries to cover a big topic by just interviewing some people and telling their stories. There are a whole series of these and they’re not the most effective. But this one is reasonably entertaining, and has enough stories that it isn’t a waste of time.

So, though this documentary pretends to tell the story of session musicians, it really just tells the story of some session musicians who played with Billy Joel, Alice Cooper and some other people. The musicians are mostly guitarists, with a couple drummers and bassists. There is a single interviewee who is a keyboard player, if I’m not mistaken. And there’s nothing about the history of the job, why it exists in the popular music world.

Instead we get personal stories from certain people – I guess the people who told their stories the best got the most time? It’s really a weird mix of people. I joked with Jenn that the movie was produced by someone who hates Billy Joel and likes Alice Cooper because, even though there are more musicians than the people who worked with them, one real takeaway is that Billy Joel treated his band like shit in the end and Alice Cooper is a nice guy.

So the movie is a mess and not super well-assembled. But it was still entertaining and edifying, for the most part. The interviewees have plenty of good stories and it’s particularly interesting to hear from the people who jump genres. Even if there’s no attempt to be comprehensive, it does feel like you get some sense of the session/tour musicians life. The jam sessions are not super helpful, but I guess I get what they were going for, trying to show off the talent here.

I think this profession would be better served by a show, along the lines of Drive to Survive or, alternatively Song Exploder. But, until that happens, this is a watchable introduction to the people behind the solo artists.


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