In 1988’s The Decline of Western Civilization Part II, the documentary’s most infamous scene involves filmmaker Penelope Spheeris interviewing a drunken Chris Holmes. In the scene, Holmes is gulping down vodka bottles while lounging in a swimming pool- with his mother watching from a poolside chair. Even more than three decades after that infamous scene, some might be surprised to know that Holmes is still alive. While the man has had his share of ups and downs, the former W.A.S.P. guitarist has managed to stick around. The story of his life and career is told in a new documentary feature from Cleopatra Entertainment- entitled Mean Man. While it isn’t without its problems, Mean Man still manages to be an enjoyable rock documentary.
Rock documentaries typically tell their stories in either one of three ways: a past history (either career spanning or a particular point in time), a current event (as-it-happens deal) or both at once. For Mean Man, it tackles both a past history and a current event. In the present tense, the movie follows Chris Holmes during 2015-16 while on tour in support for his second album- 2015’s Shitting Bricks. As the movie follows Holmes, viewers are treated to a look back at Holmes’ history- with the movie see-sawing between these two stories.
As far as the history segments go, these are very good. Along with Holmes, Mean Man has a good variety of interviewees- including former bandmates, longtime friends and other people that were around during Holmes’ life. As of 2021, there has yet to be a documentary on the story of W.A.S.P. With that, most W.A.S.P. fans should be pleased with these segments as the movie does a good job at showing how outrageous the band were back in the day- complete with archival footage and pictures. Even if some of the information that’s given isn’t new, the way that it’s presented is fairly strong.
However, the movie leaves some questions unanswered and/or underdeveloped. One example of this can be found in the scenes where Holmes claims that he doesn’t receive money from the music he made with W.A.S.P. While this sounds intriguing, we really aren’t given an in-depth explanation about this. It’s just mentioned by Holmes that he signed to a bad deal and hints that Holmes’ bandmate Blackie Lawless had something to do with it. Speaking of which, Holmes’ relationship with Lawless is discussed in the movie- in that Holmes has been able to get along with all of his bandmates with the exception of him. While Lawless (unsurprisingly) doesn’t appear in the movie, people within and outside of the band give some insight as to how the two worked together. Holmes’ years after leaving W.A.S.P. are also discussed here, which were nice to learn about considering there’s next to nothing online about them.
While the history portions are solid, the present tense portions fall on the weak side. While nicely shot and not necessarily bad, the footage shown of Holmes on tour lack any conflict. This isn’t to say that there isn’t conflict in the movie: there is. At one point early into the movie, Holmes has issues with his amplifier during a sound check. The issues persist during the gig, making Holmes furious afterwards. Aside from that, there really isn’t any conflict in these portions. Then again, there doesn’t need to be conflict. If anything, the scenes of Holmes on tour are simply repetitive and not very eventful: he plays a gig, the show goes well, he does meet and greets, takes pictures- rinse, lather, repeat. Mean Man has a runtime of only 78 minutes. Even with the short runtime, it feels unfocused during these parts.
Despite the uneventful tour scenes, some strengths can be found in them: they add to the overall movie as it gives you insight to the kind of guy Chris Holmes is. While the scenes are repetitive, you get the impression that Holmes is a genuinely nice guy. Looking at a guy like Holmes, many would quickly assume that he’s the typical, scary-looking heavy metal musician that had his rise and fall in fame. The aforementioned infamous scene in The Decline of Western Civilization Part II (which is discussed in the movie) hasn’t done him any favors either. However seeing this movie; along with his appearances on The Metal Voice podcast- Holmes seems like a funny guy who likes cracking jokes and telling stories about his days in W.A.S.P.
Overall, Mean Man is an enjoyable documentary on an often forgotten heavy metal musician. Fans of the West Coast/LA glam metal scene will probably enjoy this movie, along with any fans of W.A.S.P. It’s not a classic in any sense of the word but it doesn’t need to be. It’s just a fun documentary about the loyal and charismatic axeman from W.A.S.P.
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.