Yet another documentary on the Rolling Stones, Brett Morgan's film offers little new insight in to a well known rock saga.
Was it all an act? A carefully planned PR strategy? Or was it the real deal? These are the questions that pervade this celebratory documentary on rock ‘n’ roll icons, The Rolling Stones.
Marking their fiftieth anniversary as a group – though founding member Brian Jones was replaced by Mick Taylor, who was then later replaced by Ronnie Wood – Crossfire Hurricane opens with voiceovers by band members Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts, who struggle to recollect the past 50 years of their lives: “I can’t remember”, most of them confess.
And here lies, perhaps, the main problem with Crossfire Hurricane. Such was their hedonistic lifestyle that no one can actually remember any of the good stuff. It’s just all hazy memories and fudged anecdotes. Yet, with extensive archive footage, ranging from live performances, backstage antics, newsreel and television interviews, Crossfire Hurricane is on a par with Senna for the sheer amount of fresh material on show.
In an interview with Dick Cavett in 1972, Jagger refutes that his role in the band is like that of an actor. Later he contradicts himself, admitting that the personas he created were not the real him and that performing in his flamboyant and dangerous style to thousands of baying fans was, at times, a sort of act. All a part of the anti-Beatles image that was established by their original manager. In these moments, the film feels like it really is peeling back the men behind the caricatures.
In other moments, important Stones memories are washed over with very broad strokes. The death of Brian Jones is given very little reflection, while the infamous Altamont Free Concert and subsequent confrontation with the Hells Angels is chilling if all too brief. Ronnie Wood’s belated introduction to the band is merely bolted on by the very end.
In fact, Brett Morgan's film never attempts to give a comprehensive account of The Rollong Stones' history, rather than a focused portrait of the first 20 years of their success as a countercultural force. The irony of the opening title card ‘never let the truth spoil a good story’ isn’t lost on anybody. But a little more truth and myth busting might have made everything that bit more exhilarating.
Less enlightening as to who The Stones really are and more of a show-reel for their legions of fans, Crossfire Hurricane is never allowed to let rip and rock out. And like their now wheezing lungs and aching bodies, by the end it's is more of a damp squib than a maelstrom of rock star mythology and iconic excess. Nevertheless, the screaming girls, crazy drug tales and Watts’ dry humour occasionally make it a gas, gas, gas.
Wasn't it, like, ten minutes since the last Rolling Stones film?
Occasionally amusing, and great archive footage. But nothing new to see here.
Stones completists may feel sated, but the idly inquisitive would do best to steer clear.