Movie review: Shihad: Beautiful Machine

By Scott Kara

3 comments
Shihad. Photo / Supplied
Shihad. Photo / Supplied

Put the music to one side for a moment, because this documentary about Shihad digs the dirt and along the way tells a good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll yarn.

The music is by no means a secondary element here, it's just that the film delves into the personal lives of the four band members. So, at times, it plays out more like a soap opera than a rockumentary.

Which is fine, because you can guarantee that everyone who goes to see this film about our longest-running, and arguably best, rock band, will have already seen them live many times.

So a concert-style music documentary, while worthy, would really be nothing that new.

But the lives, loves, and rocking good (and bad) times of Jon Toogood, Karl Kippenberger, Tom Larkin and Phil Knight makes for intriguing viewing.

It's like the no-holds-barred Foo Fighters' documentary, Back and Forth, from last year, which concentrated more on the personalities and dynamic within the band.

What comes through in Beautiful Machine is Shihad's passion for the band, and, well, the occasional bit of brutal back-stabbing. But most of all, it is up front and honest.

From the revelation that Knight was an alcoholic (he's now addicted to yoghurt instead) to Kippenberger, a normally lovely, level-headed chap, putting the boot into Toogood over his less than unifying antics when they first got to America.

The temporary name change - to Pacifier post 9/11 - is dealt with frankly, and Toogood perhaps sums up the debacle best when he says their options were "shit (a)" (give up their American dream) or "shit (b)" (change the band's name and give it a go).

As the film charts the ups and downs of their 20-plus year career it features candid interviews with the band, their mums and dads (including Ma Toogood with her Shihad tattoo), their ex and current partners, and music industry insiders, to find out how they became who they are as people - and as a band.

The rare footage of their very early days, back when Toogood and Larkin were still metal kids at Wellington High, is priceless. This is Shihad's story, and it's a cracker, which makes it a must-see for fans of the band.

Stars: 4/5
Director: Sam Peacocke
Rating: M (offensive language, sexual references and drug references)
Running time: 103 mins
Verdict: Shihad's riveting rock 'n' roll soap opera

- NZ Herald

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