Being Evel (2015) – The Movie About the Legend
Being Evel (2015) examines a legend and pioneer, trying to uncover the true story of Evel Knievel. Eventually. The movie’s timeline follows Evel Knievel’s fascinating life from beginning to end, which is very interesting, because nobody on Earth has had experiences like him. The movie rightfully gives him credit for blazing a trail, and Johnny Knoxville and Tony Hawk are on hand to give the man credit where credit is due. The thing takes a while to get to it, but we do get to go beyond a superficial retelling of the man’s life, which is possible thanks to talking-head stories from his friends and family. I think this builds his mythical nature up even more, instead of breaking it down.
Documentaries are somewhat predictable and often transparent in composition. This one is no exception. However, it is really fun to hear stories about Evel Knievel and his fantastical daredevil stunts. The man carries controversy with him and the movie doesn’t shy away from telling us about it. He was a very rich guy, according to the story, and lost it all. However, I can tell that the movie was trying its hardest to not make Evel out to be a flash in the pan or a wacko. The whole thing was very factual and respectful to Evel, even though he was pretty much a jerk to a lot people during his life.
Evel was arrogant. He was a showman. He was a lady’s man too. The documentary deals with all of that. It focuses on one incident where he used an aluminum baseball bat to beat a man unconscious who wrote a biography about him. Evel didn’t like the book, so he broke his wrists. Is this guy in the mafia? So Evel is sent to jail, but he treats it like a vacation. He rents a limo to take himself to his job on “work release”. He hires other limos to take his fellow prisoners to their jobs too. The media had a field day with that.
I think it was really the endorsements and the toy contracts that made Evel a rich man. After he beat somebody to a pulp and went to prison, the toy company canceled his contract and he lost everything. The last half of the movie deals with the later years of his life and the “philosophical” Evel Knievel.
In all, I liked this documentary. It was pretty straightforward and the actual clips of Evel himself added to the authentic feel of the movie. The man was in the media A LOT, so there is quite a few clips and interviews to show.
It felt like they were really telling the life story of Evel Knievel. It didn’t feel fake or embellished, although there is obviously a conscious choice by the producers to paint Evel as a hero and pioneer in extreme sports. I’m okay with that. It was worth a couple of bucks to see this documentary, at least for the footage of Evel himself and his attempted jump over Snake Canyon. After watching it, I guess I buy into the legend too. Evel Knievel was one of a kind.