‘Documentary Now!’ Review: A Smart Comedy With Controversial Satire
Considering the tragic Virginia shooting of two journalists on air last week, it comes as no surprise that IFC postponed episode three of Documentary Now! until the following week out of respect to the victims. “DRONEZ: The Hunt for El Chingon,” the first episode, follows a news agency that bears a striking similarity to VICE News, and their doomed search for answers about a Mexican drug kingpin. Jack Black is the primary narrator and plays a hilarious version of VICE founder Shane Smith. Fred Armisen and Bill Hader play various journalists whose characters are assassinated by the cartel every time they try to get close.
‘Documentary Now!’ Review
The first team of journalists venture to Ciudad Juarez where they take to social media to find a soul brave enough to talk about his experience with the cartel. They go to the subject’s home and their most notable observation about life in Juarez is that the man owns a first generation PlayStation. After a lackluster interview and feeble attempt to relate, they encounter gunmen at the front door and are shot down.
“So, Kyle and John were dead. Lucky for us, they had already recorded their voiceovers,” Jamison Friend (Black) narrates in response to the fallen journalists. He pulls two reporters from other assignments to get to the bottom of the El Chingon Story. Trevor Kenney (Hader) is imbedded in Alabama with a racist sorority, and Bryce Bowen (Armisen) is in Syria introducing militia forces to Mario Kart. The new team holds a meeting with a New York Times reporter to get a feel for what they’re up against. However, they ignore all her advice. They head to nightclub where their fixer is an American rapper, and it just so happens to be his first time in Mexico, too. These two don’t live to see the morning.
Jamison isn’t messing around this time. He sends the best he’s got: Lars Klegg (Armison) and Denver McIver (Hader). They wander the streets and come across “some sweet insider information.” The professor they interview tells them that everybody knows El Chingon lives in the foothills, because his cartel is named after the region. All six journalists were unaware of this.
They enter El Chingon’s compound and are having a fine time shooting automatic, gold-plated AK-47s, drinking smoothies and finding out that the dreaded kingpin is actually “just a fun dude who’s into cool stuff.” Denver shoots an unknown man by accident at a dance party and everybody has a good laugh. They finally sit down for their interview with El “Nacho” Chingon when the police raid the place. Lars and Denver are heroes for getting as far as they did. The actors play a subtle satire of forced and mediocre journalism.
Pictured: Jack Black as Jamison Friend
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