[LEMMY is now available on home video.]
Review by Bob Ignizio
I am a huge fan of Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, both as a musician and as a cultural icon. Hawkwind, the British “space rock” band Lemmy played bass with from 1971 until 1975, is one of my top 3 bands of all time. The group Lemmy founded after being kicked out of Hawkwind, Motörhead, is in my top ten. And then there are all the great quotes from and stories about this rock & roll road legend. So of course I wanted to see this documentary about the guy.
Just because you're interested in the subject, though, doesn't automatically make for an enjoyable documentary. LEMMY is a perfect case in point. At nearly 2 hours, the film meanders about, never really setting into any kind of cohesive narrative. If you didn't have a pretty good idea of who Lemmy was going in, you might well wonder what all the fuss is about for nearly the first hour. It takes that long for the film to get around to giving even the sparest account of Lemmy's career in the music business.
We get a lot of rock stars talking about how much they admire and were influenced by Lemmy and his bands, but not much discussion of why Motörhead remain largely a cult band or how Lemmy feels about that. I wasn't expecting a VH1 “Behind the Music” episode, but a movie about a musician needs to do a better job of putting that person's work into context and explaining why it's important. On that front, the “Classic Albums” DVD for Motörhead's Ace of Spades record does a much better job than this feature film.
As a portrait of the man behind the music, it's not much better. There are maybe two scenes in the entire film where directors Greg Oliver and Wes Orshoski get Lemmy to let down his guard and open up. Once when he says something unexpected about his son, and later when Lemmy talks about his own father. The film also does do a good job showing how Lemmy is sort of a sad, lonely figure in some ways, spending his time off the road on a bar stool playing video trivia games. But whether the fault lies with a subject who just didn't want to give any more, or with directors unwilling to push for it, in the end it feels like there's a lot missing, and that what is here is kind of formless. 2 out of 4 stars.