You’ve probably used the software that bears his name. John McAfee was a tech pioneer, one of the first observe and address the threats posed by computer viruses. In recent years, McAfee has had his name in the press for a variety of reasons. You may have seen him talking about cybersecurity. You may have seen him being interviewed about his presidential campaign for the Libertarian Party. You may have seen him discussed for his role in the murder of Gregory Faull in Belize, and the subsequent manhunt for the tech millionaire that led to his apprehension in Guatemala. The numerous aspects of McAfee are the subject of the new Showtime Documentary Film, Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee, which is an unsettling story of madness, murder, and media manipulation.
At first, it seems as if director Nanette Burstein is unduly injecting herself in the narrative, providing a personalized voiceover for the initial chapter of this bizarre true story. However, it soon becomes apparent that she’s doing this as a means to convey her attempts to get an interview with McAfee himself, and she presents some of the maddening email correspondence between herself and the strange millionaire. Collecting archival footage and brand new interviews with former associates in both America and Belize, Burstein creates a shocking portrait that does its best to dissuade any notions of innocence with McAfee’s involvement in Faull’s murder.
Following a brief summation of his youth, Burstein examines the paranoia that seems to have always been embedded within the psyche of McAfee, but it also was the source of his greatest success. The office of McAfee’s company seems bizarre, with employees having competitions about where they could have sex around the office. Eventually, McAfee is bought out of his own company and establishes a yoga retreat in Colorado. Not too long later, McAfee shutters his retreat and claims to have lost most of his fortune in media interviews. He then decides to move to Belize. It is in Belize where McAfee’s madness seems to run wild, leaving a trail of pain and devastation in its wake.
In Belize, McAfee buys oceanfront property and establishes a lab for a young research scientist to explore natural medicines. As is the throughline of his life, the deep-seated paranoia begins to take hold. McAfee surrounds himself with armed bodyguards of questionable moral fortitude and engages in numerous relationships with young teenage girls – his bizarre sexual proclivities are discussed in startling detail. This chapter gets darker and darker, with McAfee being accused of rape from the research scientist, who is incapable of getting any form of legal justice against her perpetrator. He apparently funded the brutal beatings of would-be enemies.
All of which leads to the murder of Greg Faull. According to those present, the feud between neighbors all started over McAfee’s dogs, who it is reported that Faull poisoned following a dispute. This led McAfee to pay off some of his entourage to arrange for Faull’s murder to get even. The film operates under the assumption of McAfee’s guilt in the murder, and the interviews that Burstein conducts with McAfee’s associates seems to corroborate the film’s perspective. There are even interviews with the man that Burstein believes was the man who pulled the trigger. It all amounts to an incredible work of investigative filmmaking, and the email correspondence between Burstein and McAfee give the impression that this is a man full of rage and unafraid to lash out on his perceived enemies. At one point, he sends Burstein pictures of her crew conducting interviews in Belize, as if he’s omnipresent even in exile. There’s no overt threat made, but it’s certainly implied. It’s absolutely chilling.
There are few tangents in Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee that don’t fully come to fruition. The film opens with some speculation that McAfee’s numerous donations to the local police in Belize operated as a form of payoff, but it’s pretty clear that the police in Belize were rather quick to zero in on McAfee in the wake of Faull’s murder. The same could be said of his time as a yoga guru with Colorado retreat. McAfee claims that he exaggerated the amount of money lost as a way to dissuade lawsuits against him, and there’s little follow up to test the veracity of these claims.
In the end, there’s no sign of justice in Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee. This man has never faced charges for the murder of Greg Faull nor the rape of Dr. Allison Adonizio. McAfee loves media attention, and the media has been willing to give him a platform to talk about any number of topics despite his wretched history. The film concludes with a terse confrontation between Burstein and McAfee, the filmmaker confronting him at a public event for his Libertarian Party candidacy. He seems ready to declare war on Showtime and Burstein for this movie, actively engaging in rage-filled emails. Amazingly, McAfee came in second in the Libertarian primaries to Gary Johnson, which I think might be a larger indictment on the Libertarian Party than anything. Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee is an engrossing documentary that tries to cover every angle of his questionable life in Central America through talking to all the players in this twisted tale of murder, madness, and celebrity.
Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee
An engrossing documentary exploring the controversial life of tech millionaire John McAfee, Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee aims to remove any and all doubts as to his involvement in the murder of his neighbor in Belize in a wild true crime story.