Back in 2013, he was the coolest, most in-demand hero who ever hit the big screen.

The charming, self-proclaimed nomadic skateboarder had his 15 minutes of fame – and then some – in social media after a video of his interview went viral.  

“The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker” is a documentary – one of the first notable documentaries of the year – that’ s too astonishing to be fiction, because you just can’t make this stuff up.

The story goes that Kai was hitchhiking when he was given a ride by another man, who was driving when they struck a pedestrian with their vehicle.

Kai told a reporter the driver got out of the car to attack a woman who was trying to help at the scene of the crash.

Kai then got a hatchet from his backpack and began to “smash, smash, smash” the man, or so he told the reporter.

Kai became a social-media darling, made all the more famous in memes. Stories of his heroic feat went global. All the while, millions of people were asking “Where is Kai?” They wanted to see more of this talkative fellow who claimed he had no last name and no home.

And then Kai was re-discovered, and made an appearance on TV.

Meanwhile, we find out more about Kai through his mother, his cousin, and … law enforcement. There’s a lot more to this documentary, and Kai’s life, than the tale of a lovable nomad, and there’s a reason it’s classified in the “true crime” genre.

Director Colette Camden peels back the layers of Kai’s story, and pretty much his whole life, little by little. The result at first will have you chuckling, then scratching your head, and then on the edge of your seat as you begin to ponder exactly what happened and who Kai really is.

If this is typical of the caliber of documentaries 2023 has to offer, it’s going to be a great year for documentary enthusiasts.

4 stars

Running time: One hour and 27 minutes.

Streaming on Netflix.

Watch the trailer here.