Parents' Guide to

Hired Gun

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Music docu is best for rock, heavy metal fans; cursing.

Movie NR 2017 98 minutes
Hired Gun Poster Image

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Perhaps if this documentary had been called Hired Guns in Classic Rock and Heavy Metal, it would be less of a disappointment. But it didn't, and the result is a documentary that presents the realities of fulfilling the dream of making a living as a session musician but is devoted almost entirely to white male Baby Boomers. People of color and women are given very little space to discuss their experiences. And while 20 Feet from Stardom and Standing in the Shadows of Motown have already done much to illuminate them, it still feels downright shameful that Hired Gun can't even mention in passing legends such as Merry Clayton, James Jamerson, and Bernard Purdie.

Some of the stories are interesting: Guys from Billy Joel's backing band leave no illusions that Joel, who once turned down a chance to work with Beatles producer George Martin because Martin wanted to bring in other studio musicians instead of using Joel's backing band, turned into as big of a jerk as Gene Simmons. Rudy Sarzo -- who played bass with Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot, and Whitesnake -- comes across as both insightful and full of wisdom that musicians who aren't fans of "dad rock" and metal might appreciate. But overall, there isn't enough of a focus to present the complete picture of the "hired gun," and even the term "hired gun" seems stretched the way it's used here; for instance, Jason Newsted, who played bass for Metallica for 15 years, is made to be a "hired gun" because he replaced the original bass player, the late Cliff Burton. By that logic, Mick Taylor and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones would be "hired guns" because they replaced Brian Jones. The takeaway is that the filmmakers didn't really stray too far from friends and friends of friends, and the result is a documentary that should have broad appeal limiting itself to fans of a very small sliver of the vast musical spectrum.

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