Gary Kent was quite possibly the most important stuntman in 1970s cinema. Moving to Hollywood in 1959, Kent spent the 60s and 70s doing stunts, and acting, in drive-in classics by grindhouse names like Al Adamson and Monte Hellman, as well as working with burgeoning New Hollywood talents like Peter Bogdanovich, Jack Nicholson and Brian De Palma. Kent also directed three features of his own, and continued working in Hollywood until deciding to retire from stuntwork after an accident on the set of the 2002 throwback classic Bubba Ho-Tep – Kent continues to act in independent pictures, however. And now, with a character inspired by Kent being played by Brad Pitt in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, comes this documentary exploring Kent’s professional and personal life.
It’s a pleasant documentary, easy-going and relaxed, similar in its way to listening to an old-timer telling stories over a beer. But more than that, there’s an intimacy to the picture, and it doesn’t shy away from tragedy, including the death of Kent’s wife, his own health battles, and his nostalgic, yet complicated relationship with his own past. For all this, though, Kent mostly emerges as just a nice guy, and it’s pleasant hearing him talk.
It may, if anything, have been too pleasant; one sometimes gets the feelings in these kinds of documentaries that the subject was simply too charming, too nice to work with, and that as a consequence it was hard for the director to bring themselves to cut anything. At 100 minutes the doc feels either too long or too short; individual thematic strands of the film rarely stick around for more than ten minutes or so, but it’s too breezily rambling to feel like it goes anywhere. Some of the material covered here is also covered – and better – in this year’s Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life and Grisly Death of Al Adamson, which probably had a less interesting central figure, but always felt like it was driving towards its bleak conclusion. Perhaps it helps to have a bleak conclusion to drive to; Kent is, happily, still with us and still doing good work, so the complaint is a minor one.
Danger God is now available on DVD.