Director: Morgan Neville
Tremolo Productions/Radical Media/Netflix
Premiering on Netflix this film about Keith Richards was conceived as a promotional video to accompany his new solo album, his first in over two decades. And for the first half of its feature-length running time Keith Richards: Under The Influence still feels like the longest EPK ever. No matter. People loved his memoir, Life. And so they’ll see this as companion piece.
Nobody celebrates the myth of Keith Richards more than Keith Richards. But director Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom) has a bloody good go.
The Stones are only there in archival clips we’ve seen before. We hear from X-Pensive Wino stalwarts Waddy Watchel and Steve Jordan instead. Which would be interesting but they don’t have much – beyond platitudes – to offer. Tom Waits is a wonderful choice though, he has a way with a line and he is not over-exposed. So anything he says is great, from calling Keith a “London cabbie who has the knowledge” (it’s so often the way with Waits’ great lines – they don’t actually mean anything, they just sound like they might be right) to using the term “archaeologist” for Keith’s approach to songwriting/song-gathering.
About halfway through the EPK feel disappears – finally. Only 20 minutes too late. And while we don’t get anything close to the truth we do get fresh reflections on Keith’s time trying to pay tribute to Chuck Berry for his hero’s 60th Birthday (Hail! Hail! Rock’n’Roll) and we get something of a portrait.
It is – still – the documentary equivalent/companion to Keith’s self-mythologising memoir. But when you’re dialling up a Friday night movie from the corner of your couch, and not hoping for too much exactly, you could always do worse than this.
And the fairweather fans can rejoice – for this is Captain Jack Sparrow in real life! This is the guy who has cheated death, who never expected to live past 30. No point in looking into his junkie-dom that was so punishing he watched from the sidelines, barely there, while one of his children died, no point in assessing the anger and nihilism. Not when you can compare him to the greats he idolised, reprobate made good, the larrikin that is now part of the establishment.
And he has a new album out don’t you know? The streaming of this film on Netflix just might help sell a whole lot more copies – funny to think that streaming is just fine for the film medium, and it will, ironically, reach the surely dying-off demographic of CD-buyers.