Rated TV-14

Directed by Fran Strine (Dolly: Live in London O2 Arena, Battlefield of the Mind)

Writers: Tim Calandrello (Foo Fighters: Back and Forth, Auschwitz), Fran Strine

Cinematography by Gavin Fisher (Grey Skies, Girlfriend 19)

Starring (Musicians playing as themselves): Kenny Aronoff, Phil Buckman, Alice Cooper, Dave Ellefson, David Foster, Brad Gillis, Derek St. Holmes, Jason Hook, Jason Newsted, Steve Vai, Rob Zombie

Purchase Hired Gun: Out of the Shadows, into the Spotlight [Blu-ray] via Amazon.


Last night around 10:30, the wife turned in, and I wasn’t quite ready for bed. So I checked out Netflix to see if there was anything that I couldn’t live without seeing. Recently, I watched the documentary on the band Anvil, which detailed the rather rocky road those guys have traveled to gain the traction that they have today. I decided to find another worthy documentary, and I stumbled upon Hired Gun.

The documentary interviewed various musicians who’ve supported acts such as P!nk, Metallica, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, and Billy Joel. Some of these people I never knew existed, and I’ll warrant you’ll find a few surprises yourself. For any that aren’t quite sure of what a hired gun is in the music business, it’s an individual that is hired to fill in for a band. The job may entail something as straightforward as a guitar solo for a studio album to something as rigorous as going on tour. Members of Alice Cooper and Billy Joel are quite familiar with this process.

To be a hired gun, you have to be great at what you do, and be ready to perform at a moment’s notice, as well as receiving little to no credit for your efforts. Most of the musicians on the show were absolutely qualified to be a part of a band full time, but some just weren’t due to varying circumstances. Even when some managed to get a steady job, the rug would be snatched out from under them due to either personality differences, logistics, or just bad timing.

While watching the special I thought, “Good grief, these guys are loaded with talent and can’t catch a break!” Then I wondered what it must be like to possess that kind of talent. I know, they work on their craft almost every day. I get it. But there must also be at least a speck of God-given ability.

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For me, my talents are pretty much useless. If I hear a song that I’m familiar with, I can give you the artist, track name, album, and year released within the first two seconds of a song. Pretty cool, huh? But so what! It doesn’t make any money. About the only the thing it does is allow me to win games that involve guessing songs played on the radio. To quote the late, great Chris Farley: “La-di-frickin’-da.”

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Back to Hired Gun, it was educational for me as a fan of metal and rock ‘n roll, as well as just good old-fashioned entertainment. I’d like to think that even casual fans of these music genres would gain an appreciation for the work these hired guns do – many times thanklessly, and learn a thing or two in process of watching. For any fan of Kiss, Alice Cooper, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Five Finger Death Punch, Billy Joel, or Ted Nugent, this documentary will be a lot of fun.

If you’re experiencing a slow movie night and don’t want to dive into a binge-worthy series, watch Hired Gun.

Buy Hired Gun