Whatever happened to the guy?!
This documentary is about a Hollywood legend who deliberately cultured an anarchistic and ultra-macho persona—one that irritated the life out of many of the politically correct in Hollywood. However, for some time, the film industry had to put up with John Milius’ strangeness because the man was extremely successful. With films like Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Wind and the Lion and Apocalypse Now to his writing credits, he was greatly in demand and was friends with the biggest names in Hollywood—like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. However, in recent years, Milius’ output on the screen has dropped considerably and the prestige of his projects has dropped. And, in the last few years, his output has dropped to nothing. What happened? What led to this fall?
The film begins with a very brief discussion of Milius’ childhood but spends most of the early part of the film talking about his time in film school—where he attended classes with the two men mentioned above as well as a few other future filmmakers. It then proceeds to discuss his projects chronologically—and pays special attention to his most successful and critically acclaimed pictures. Additionally, I noticed that Milius’ IMDB credits actually are missing much of his work, as he was apparently the go-to man when producers needed re-writes or wanted to punch up scenes—such as when he contributed some dialog for the film Jaws. His track record during this time was pretty amazing. But as I mentioned above, there was a fall—but I really don’t want to say more, as it would spoil the film.
The best thing going for this film is how much many ultra-famous people love and respect Milius. Because of this, TONS of exceptionally big names contribute to the film—such as Clint Eastwood, Sam Elliott, Oliver Stone (who didn’t seem to like him but respected his abilities), Francis Ford Coppola, Richard Dreyfus, Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many, many more. Even a bad documentary would be great and well worth seeing with these folks appearing in it!! And, fortunately, this is NOT a bad film at all. It is a loving portrait of a strange and deliberately out of sync man. Think about it—in the bastion of liberal thinking, Hollywood, Milius was serving as an officer for the NRA and would carry guns about him to meetings with studio execs!! I admire someone who deliberately tweaks the noses of those around them, as provocateurs make like a lot more interesting!
Additionally, the film is well-constructed, filled with wonderful clips and archival footage, is fascinating and you cannot help but gain an appreciation for this very odd man. Well worth seeing—especially for anyone who wants to be somebody in the film business.
This film, by the way, was placed on the streaming section of Netflix if you are interested and live in a part of the world where this service is available.
Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer