Hired Gun

A documentary film about session and touring musicians that are hired by well establish and famous bands and artists. These people may not be household names, but are still top notch performers!

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  • ★★★½ review by Robin Solsjö Höglund on Letterboxd

    Stumbled upon this on Netflix, a documentary about "hired guns" in the music world, meaning musicians that are hired as session musicians on albums or temporarily hired to play on tours.

    This was a really interesting and well rounded documentary, and it talks about the deaths and replacements of Randy Rhoads for Ozzy Osbourne, Cliff Burton for Metallica, but also has interviews with everyone from Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper to Eric Singer and former Billy Joel drummers. Most delightful and surprising was probably Jason Hook from Five Finger Death Punch though, who used to make his living as a hired gun guitarist for Hillary Duff and Mandy Moore before landing tours with Alice Cooper and eventually Five Finger Death Punch. Pretty humble guy, he didn't turn his nose up at all at his previous jobs, because he realizes they're what landed him where he is today. Rudy Sarzo from Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne and Whitesnake also share some great stories, at times he's almost like a much cooler and more composed version of Tommy Wiseau, haha.

    If you like music, in particular rock and metal music, I think you'll enjoy this one. I am not a fan of the stilted "supergroup" music performances included, I would've actually preferred if this were just a "talking heads" type documentary, but overall it was interesting to learn so many stories about the musicians behind the great musicians so to speak, and it runs the gamut of emotions from laughter and tears to joy and camaraderie.

  • ★★★½ review by Dan Bergstrom on Letterboxd

    Looking at the current Billboard charts, there are an awful lot of solo artists in the top 100. Coincidentally, this documentary is about many of the unheralded "side men/women" in the industry. Hopefully this doesn't crush anyone's fantasy, but Ed Sheeran and Post Malone featuring 21 Savage and Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug can't make the top 3 without some backup musicians. This film is their story.

    Ok, I have no Idea what a Post Malone, 21 Savage, Young Thug, Lil Pump, Cardi B, Sza, Portugal the Man... Ok, I'm going to stop. People need to quit listening to terrible music. I know you're supposed to feel old when you're like, "Kids these days...", but seriously. This is awful. I don't feel old. I feel like I have good taste in music and kids don't. There's two artists whose names contain "A$AP". I mean, what the hell?

    Anyway, this documentary focuses on a dozen or so "hired guns". People whose names probably aren't on the album, but if you actually listened to good music in the last 2-3 decades, you've probably heard them: Liberty DeVitto (Billy Joel's longtime drummer), Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy, Quiet Riot), Jason Hook (Mandy Moore, Alice Cooper, 5FDP), Phil X (Bon Jovi), and many others. There's also interviews with more famous names, like Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, Jason Newsted, Eric Singer, Steve Lukather, the "Hey Man, Nice Shot" guy...

    For about 90 minutes, it chronicles the ups and downs of being a hired gun. There are a couple of in-depth profiles, but for the most part, it hops around a lot, which is too bad. I'd like a little more focus, but I'm also of the opinion that a good documentary can never be too long. I'd be up for 4 hours of this. There's a little "dirty laundry" here, and clearly some bitterness, but there's also some excellent music and some good stories from some fantastic players.

    It's rather heavy on music and artists that were more popular in the 80's and 90's, which is fine with me as I'm not terribly fond of current popular music. Odds are, you've heard most of these artists on the radio hundreds of times in your life, even if you don't know who they are. I may not have much musical aptitude, but I do have a fondness for great musicianship, and this film celebrates it. If you like a quick film that's full of good music, check this out. If you're sad that "Wanted You" by NAV featuring Lil Uzi Vert dropped four spots this week, this film probably isn't for you. Also, please tell me why everyone has a "Lil" in their name now. In the top 100, there's Lil Pump, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Wayne, Lil Xan and Lil Yachty. Also, something called Lil Peep died the other day. I've never heard of him, but he had face tattoos and probably sucked. So, if you know why this "Lil" thing is happening, please let me know. I'm genuinely curious, and I have no relatives that are in the "Lil" demographic.

  • ★★★½ review by VectorX on Letterboxd

    A very interesting portrait of music, the experiences of the "ghost musicians" not famous for their name but in particular for their skills.

    If you're thinking that playing with best rockstars of the world will make you very rich and famous....you're totally wrong. It's only for a while...and then?

  • ★★★½ review by Kevin Doree on Letterboxd

    Stories of amazing players playing just outside the spotlight. Often underpaid, underappreciated.

  • ★★★½ review by Michael on Letterboxd

    Interviews with and about A-list session and touring musicians who back up star performers. Plus some great performances featuring these musicians. The director has been a long-time concert photographer and videographer who's worked extensively with some of the musicians featured in the movie and HIRED GUN really digs into some of their stories and explores their careers, their successes and failures, their mistakes, their lucky breaks, and their feelings about their profession. There's a lot of information presented so the musical interludes are a welcome break giving the audience time to digest what we've learned.

    It's fun to see the lists of bands each player has worked with; some stick to particular niches, some back up artists in a variety of styles.

    Great stories. Great music. A rewarding experience.

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