Rock Docs: Mean Man - The Story of Chris Holmes (2021) - Reviewed

Most viewers/listeners will remember heavy-metal guitarist Chris Holmes from the second installment of Penelope Spheeris’ legendary music documentary series The Decline of Western Civilization.  Featuring a notorious episode with the former lead W.A.S.P. guitarist splayed out fully clothed on an inflatable chair before his mother in the swimming pool in a drunken stupor as he pours bottles of vodka down his throat. 
 
The scene people remember over others in the film represents a moment cloaked in heavy metal rock music urban legend mystique with many calling bluff to an “act” while others say he really was downing booze like no tomorrow.  It spoke heavily to Chris Holmes’ own struggles with addiction and in a telling scene of Holmes rewatching the scene years later we see that he’s been trying to divorce himself and his music from that image for years.

 
In what is ostensibly a self-portrait/confessional with the new forthcoming documentary film Mean Man: The Story of Chris Holmes by Antoine de Montremy and Laurent Hart, we follow Holmes now living in Cannes, France with his wife and business partner Catherine in the act of preparing a new tour across Europe with his new band.  Interspersed with interviews with colleagues and former bandmates alongside archival interviews and stage performances, Mean Man functions as both a documentary of the rocker’s ups and downs throughout his career and personal life as well as a tribute to the genre he loves and still lives for.
 
Much like recently released The El Duce Tapes the film chronicles the musician’s struggles with alcoholism and temporary homelessness after too many violent blackout drunk episodes though to our collective relief Chris Holmes seems to be doing fine.  Unlike other hard rocker documentaries typically culminating in a bleak end, Mean Man presents its subject as refreshed and ready to still give some of his talents back to the fans whom he shows a great deal of appreciation of throughout. 

 
As a rock documentary its mostly good if not unremarkable technically speaking and yet it presents Holmes with a rare opportunity to dispel the unwanted aura surrounding his infamous Decline interview as well as start again anew.  While Mean Man won’t change anyone’s opinions on the man’s music and troubled legacy for better or worse, it does present a lovingly made tribute to one of the music industry’s longest standing hard rockers and for that it gets a friendly recommendation.  

--Andrew Kotwicki