Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

"Very Good"

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas Review


You might be tempted to dismiss Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as a curiosity, an attempt to exploit the pockets of fame enjoyed by Hunter S. Thompson and director Terry Gilliam.

When I first saw the film in 1998, that's what I did.

But Criterion's decision to release the film as a luxe two-DVD set made me give the movie another look. I haven't totally changed my mind, but I now appreciate the film enough to have at least gotten some pleasure out of the experience.

For the uninitiated, Thompson is known almost exclusively for his contribution to a field he dubbed gonzo journalism. His exploits are captured in numerous magazine stories and books, often titled "Fear and Loathing" in some place. His Vegas excursion -- where he is assigned to cover a huge motorcycle race -- is one of his best known stories. Vegas of course offers plenty to fear and loathe, making it the perfect spot for one of Thompson's trademark adventures.

In this case, the motorcycle rally is beside the point. Thompson alter-ego Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his attorney (Benicio Del Toro) head to Vegas in a giant red convertible packed to bursting with all manner of drugs. The wackiness starts straight away: Duke sees animated bats attacking the car as they head across the desert. In Vegas, the floor crawls up people's legs. Duke's narrative voice-over and his on-screen persona swap dialogue willy-nilly. Del Toro's "Dr. Gonzo" (ahem) prefaces everything with a disclaimer: "As your attorney I advise you to rent a large car with no top." Gilliam uses trick photography to give you the full effect: Some of this is really banal, like the slide-show strobe effect, Dutch angles, and odd long shots. But much of it is old-school Gilliam, putting you right in the action with the monsters which everyone in Vegas seems to turn into. It's all meant to make you feel like you've been sucking down peyote and ether all day long.

In other words: It's crazy. Gilliam has made a gonzo film meant to get you in the rumble seat, riding along with Duke and the doctor. Admittedly, their adventure peters out after the novelty of trashing hotel rooms and spotting celebrity cameos wears off (this happens at about the halfway mark). By then, Fear and Loathing has gone over the edge, losing us in its bid to become just another drug movie, only one made Gilliam style.

DVD supplements include three commentary tracks (Jesus!) from Gilliam; producer Laila Nabulsi, Depp, and Del Toro; and the man himself: Thompson as semi-interviewed by Nabulsi. Gilliam and Thompson have all the good dirt of course, but to some degree all three commentaries are worth listening to. Deleted scenes, storyboards, correspondence between Depp and Thompson, footage of Thompson's visit to the set and cameo in the film, and varous other errata -- including a commentary about the little-known dispute over the writing credits for the film.

I don't normally think much about packaging and menus, but I have to say that Fear and Loathing has one of the most impressive exteriors I've encountered on a DVD. An airbrushed, transparent plastic case holds the actual DVD set, which itself includes a couple of essays from Thompson and some overblown Thompson historian (who uses words like mise-en-scene) who Hunter would probably castrate if he got the chance. Even the DVD menu is a curiosity: Ralph Steadman is videotaped (arms only) spelling out the title of the film in his trademark neo-gonzo illustrative style. Kooky. Gonzo.



Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

Facts and Figures

Run time: 118 mins

In Theaters: Friday 22nd May 1998

Box Office Worldwide: $10.7M

Budget: $18.5M

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Production compaines: Universal Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 49%
Fresh: 32 Rotten: 33

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Raoul Duke, as Dr. Gonzo / Oscar Z. Acosta, as Hitchhiker, as Lucy, as Waitress at North Star Cafe, as Highway Patrolman, as Blonde TV Reporter, as Magazine Reporter at Mint 400, as Desk Clerk at Mint Hotel, as Ron Bumquist, as Carnie Talker, as Lacerda, as Road Person, as Frog-Eyed Woman, as Judge, as Hoodlum, Michael Peter Balzary as Hippie/Musician, as Sven, Flamingo Hotel Clerk, as Police Chief, as Herself (voice), as Alice the Maid, as Wee Waiter, as Mint Hotel Clerk

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.