A/K/A Tommy Chong Josh Gilbert

A/K/A Tommy Chong Josh Gilbert
Nothing seems more gratuitous than dispatching cops in riot gear to arrest a 60-year-old hippie at five a.m. Still, it happened to counter-culture icon Tommy Chong in 2003 after he was targeted during a national drug crackdown. The shaky handling of Chong's investigation, arrest (for selling bongs on the internet, of all things) and incarceration are the focus of Gilbert's on-point documentary about the destruction of civil liberties and the absurdities surrounding the "War on Drugs." Everyone knows Tommy Chong, alongside Cheech Marin, as a purveyor of the '60s stoner stereotype. He's basically built a career in acting, music and comedy by exalting marijuana. Problem is, the Drug Enforcement Agency doesn't understand the concept of "character" or "satire." As fucked up as Chong may be in real life, he'd never been caught doing anything illegal. But with a revived War on Drugs in full swing, who better to make an example of than the archetypal stoner himself? By daftly equating selling bongs with pushing drugs, Chong Glass was targeted and Tommy was tossed in jail. Gilbert's entertaining documentary spans two years, from before Chong's indictment, through his nine-month sentence, to his release into martyrdom. Through interviews, legal documents and archival footage, Chong is revealed as a victim of entrapment (cops tricked his son into shipping a bong to an illegal area), First Amendment violations (the Cheech and Chong movie Up In Smoke was, seriously, admitted in court as character evidence) and selective prosecution (of 55 busts, Chong was the only one to serve a federal sentence). A/K/A Tommy Chong works best because its tone is light despite its subject matter, a quality that is largely thanks to the unflappable Chong, who knows he's been victimised but refuses to get self-righteous about it. Fast-moving and never boring, Gilbert's movie is more than just a hilarious profile; it's a thoughtful statement on the culture war. After hearing dodgy proclamations like Bush's "if you don't quit drugs, you join the war on terror," you'll begin to understand how there exists a system that spent 12 million dollars trying to take down Tommy freaking Chong. (Blue Chief)