In the late 1960s, a stuntman wanders into Spahn Ranch and thoroughly convinces one of its long-haired residents to fix a vehicle for him. No, dear reader, I’m not describing a scene from Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. I’m describing a scene from the real life of Gary Kent, the subject of a new and wonderfully titled documentary, Danger God, directed by Joe O’ Connell. Now that’s something you have embroidered on the back of a leather jacket.
Kent got his start as a stuntman on those great Jack Nicholson/Monte Hellman twin cities, Ride in the Whirlwind and The Shooting. From there, Kent’s stuntman career burgeoned into actual parts, usually as the heel, because the heel would have to get what’s coming to him and nobody could take it better than Kent. Some of the most notable movies that Kent worked on in this era are Hells Angels on Wheels, Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets, Satan’s Sadists, and The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant. Wild movies are made by wild men, and Kent fit right in.
“…because the heel would have to get what’s coming to him and nobody could take it better than Kent.”
This trip down memory lane isn’t quite the helmetless joyride that Kent’s oeuvre would have you bracing for. Other than his run-in with Charles Manson—who was the aforementioned long-hair who Kent got to fix a dune buggy—Kent’s real life is curiously lacking in bikers, sickos, and deviants. Instead, O’Connell’s presentation of Kent’s life can only be described as sitting on a porch, listening to an old fella in a rocking chair wax poetic about days gone by. When the mood strikes, he gets a little teary-eyed, but mostly, he just enjoys the opportunity to tell a good story and, better yet, have a good listener.
The documentary’s low-budget, homemade production ends up working to its advantage, given the types of movies that Kent made his living on. Somehow, 4K drone footage circling Kent as he reads his memoir in a Barnes and Noble just wouldn’t feel right.
“…low-budget, homemade production ends up working to its advantage, given the types of movies that Kent made his living on.”
After we’re well acquainted with Kent’s career, the movie shifts gears into Kent’s personal life, where he took a few hits of a different kind. It’s the usual parade of illness and death that creeps up behind you as the years pile up. In life, there’s no reward for the time put in. It’s as if you’ve overstayed your welcome and the universe keeps dropping hints to that effect, trying not to embarrass you in front of the other guests by saying it outright.
Damning the torpedoes, Kent keeps at it, even after numerous heart surgeries, chemotherapy, and repeated deaths in the family. In fact, his most recent part was that of a heel in a movie called Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains, which released in 2018. What do you know? I guess they do make them like they used to.