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Review: 'For No Good Reason' paints a limited portrait of Ralph Steadman

MoviesEntertainmentArtistsJohnny DeppArts and CultureRolling Stone

The inventively shot and constructed documentary "For No Good Reason" is an absorbing look at the unique, surreal work of British cartoonist Ralph Steadman. Yet, the film, directed by 'Charlie Paul and narrated by — and also co-starring — Steadman's friend and admirer Johnny Depp, proves more successful at examining a lifetime's worth of an artist's output than at revealing much about the artist himself.

Fortunately, Steadman's blotchy ink drawings are captivating; bold, weird, satirical and highly identifiable, often from their appearances in special editions of such classics as "Alice in Wonderland" and "Animal Farm," in Rolling Stone magazine and alongside the work of famed gonzo journalist and novelist Hunter S. Thompson. (Steadman notably illustrated Thompson's 1971 book "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," which, in 1998, was made into a film starring Depp).

And it's stirring coverage of the stormy work-and-play relationship between Steadman and the erratic Thompson — it began in 1970 and lasted until the writer's suicide in 2005 — which takes up much of the movie. Evocative archival footage of the pair over the years along with tales told of shared drugs, travels and anti-Nixon-era sentiment (the latter was frequently reflected in Steadman's anarchic images) paint a vivid picture of the disparate collaborators.

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Paul beautifully captures a barrage of Steadman's drawings, many of which the filmmaker augments with lively animation. In addition, there's input from such Steadman fans and colleagues as Rolling Stone publisher-editor Jann Wenner, actor Richard E. Grant and "Fear and Loathing" director Terry Gilliam.

Meanwhile, the chain-smoking, low-key Depp (he met with Steadman at the artist's English country estate) serves as both interviewer and audience as Steadman, now 77, talks craft and influences, reflects on his eclectic career and enjoyably demonstrates his creative process.

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"For No Good Reason."

No MPAA Rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Playing: At Regency's Norwalk 8.

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