Story: The inventor of antivirus software that made him a millionaire many times over, John McAfee would become infamous for his personal life, where he was wanted for murder after an outrageous series of events in Belize. McAfee would retreat to Belize after he faced massive financial losses and needed a fresh start. His remaining cash would stretch further in such a poor country, so he began funding local police and politicians, hoping to amass power. He would claim he was there to research herbal medicines, but that project was all but stalled, while McAfee produced fake serums and formulas, just to sucker in more investors. When he was drawn into a violent dispute with his neighbor however, could even McAfee’s resources keep him from being held accountable?
Entertainment Value: If you appreciate documentaries about colorful or downright off the rails people, then you won’t want to miss Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee, as it is one of the most off the rails rides around. This piece covers most of McAfee’s life, but focuses in on his time in Belize, where he landed himself in legal troubles and began his life on the run, after his neighbor was killed and McAfee seemed likely to be involved. I would have loved a docuseries on McAfee, so we could spend more time seeing his transition from successful businessman to out of his mind lunatic, but most of his craziest moments are captured in Gringo. So I would have appreciated a deeper dive, but I understand why this stretch of time was the focus, since it holds most of the more outrageous and insane moments, which make for a memorable documentary, of course. And as I said, there is some time devoted to the life of McAfee before things go off the deep end.
We are taken inside McAfee’s inexplicable lifestyle in Belize, hearing from his security guards, female companions, and his herbal medicine scientist, as well as some others, so we are given a lot of varied perspectives. We even learn about a local criminal that was close with a rival of McAfee’s at one point, but eventually became part of John’s entourage and when his neighbor was killed, the locals tend to think this former rival was who McAfee hired. That’s just one wild story here however and McAfee himself has plenty of chances to present his side, though he refuses to be interviewed. This doesn’t stop him from trying to interfere in the production, sending escalating emails that start off polite and turn dark. Given McAfee’s antics and unpredictable behavior, I have to think this was a stressful production, even with his limited direct involvement. He even emailed pictures he had taken of the film’s crew while they traveled for interviews, showing the filmmakers he was always watching. Gringo is a wild ride, one that fans of offbeat documentaries should appreciate.