A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Documentary shows the realities of working as a hired musician for popular artists. The musicians who are interviewed discuss the amount of hard work that goes into succeeding as a session player and the ups and downs of the career, and display tremendous passion for playing music.
Positive Role Models
The musicians are honest in discussing the highs and lows of their careers as session musicians. They display their love of music, and talk of the amount of hard work and dedication it takes to succeed in the music business as a backing musician to popular performers.
Violence & Scariness
Discussion and news footage of the plane crash that took the life of legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One of the musicians discusses playing in Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe's backing band, and how there would always be women kissing in the front rows and showing their "t-ts."
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Occasional profanity. "Motherf----r," "f--k," "s--t," "t-ts," "douchey." Reference to "dropping a deuce."
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Products & Purchases
Discussion of various albums and live performances of various bands and musicians: Billy Joel, John Cougar Mellencamp, Alice Cooper, Metallica, Pink, Kiss, Steely Dan, Filter, among others. The producer of the movie is also interviewed throughout, and his band Five Finger Death Punch is featured prominently.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The bass player of Ozzy Osbourne's backing band talks of how they needed to continue their tour after the death of legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads in order to prevent Osbourne from drinking himself to death.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Hired Gun is a 2017 documentary about the ups and downs in the lives and careers of session musicians. While it does present a complete sense of what's required to succeed and maintain a career in the music industry as a working musician, it's also slanted heavily toward heavy metal and classic rock. The overwhelming majority of the subjects interviewed are white, male, and Baby Boomers. People of color and women are only briefly acknowledged. That said, this documentary is best for aspiring musicians who enjoy spending their weekends noodling on guitars in their hometown mall's Guitar Center, as well as fans of Billy Joel, Toto, and late-period Alice Cooper. There's some profanity, including "f--k" and variations, and brief mention of women flashing their breasts at concerts and making out with each other. There's discussion and news footage of the plane crash that took the life of legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.