'Being Evel': Film Review

Being Evel
Courtesy of Sundance International Film Festival
Doc on showman cyclist Evel Knievel soars

Affectionate but critical doc on daredevil motorcyclist Evel Knievel

He sported the red, white and blue, and jumped his way into the national psyche in a time when the country was in need of heroes. He was Evel Knievel and he was notorious for daredevil motorcycle stunts that found him vaulting over cars and buses and even attempting a Snake River canyon leap.

Former Sundance volunteer turned award-winning filmmaker Daniel Junge has made this perceptive documentary about the public figure who was part superhero, part showman, and the “sportsman” who inspired today’s action-sports popularity.  While it’s clear that Junge and co-screenwriter Davis Coombe hold special affection for Knievel, Being Evel is a warts-and-all portrayal of a man whose ambition and need to be in the spotlight was both a positive and a negative.  His insatiable appetites – liquor, women, attention – were parts of his personality that fueled his downfall.

Interspersed clips of Evel Knievel’s boyhood in the tough mining town of Butte, Montana, his rebellious days as a motorcycling/cop-taunting teen and his attention-getting wheelies on Ventura Blvd. as an unknown, fuel this cogent, entertaining film.

Those Sundancers old enough to remember ABC’s Wide World of Sports will recall those rousing segments where Evel Knievel soared his way into the national consciousness.  Adding perspective and credence are such media luminaries as Frank Gifford, who often covered Evel’s antics for ABC, and Johnny Knoxville.

Junge also plums the dark side, detailing Evel’s many hospital stays and his destruction of his body, as well as his emotional spin-outs.  In this day of concussion awareness, late-in-life outbursts from Knievel clue us in to the toll that his daring seems to have taken.

Both a comprehensive personality profile, as well as a smart depiction of Americana, Being Evel is propelled by its accomplished production aesthetics, compliments, in part, of cinematographer Robert Muratore and editor Davis Coombe.

Dickhouse Prods., HeLo

Director: Daniel Junge

Screenwriters: Davis Coombe, Daniel Junge

Producers: Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Tremaine, Mat Hoffman, Brendan Kiernan, JosinMoore-Lewy, Daniel Junge

Executive producers: Molly Thompson, Susan Werbe, Dirk Hoogstra, George Hamilton, Robert Lewis

Cinematographer: Robert Muratore

Co-Producer: Chelsea Matter

Editor: Davis Coombe

No Rating, 99 Minutes