The original cowriter and director of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
was Alex Cox, whose earlier film Sid and Nancy
suggests that Cox could have been a perfect match in filming Hunter S. Thompson's psychotropic masterpiece of "gonzo" journalism. Unfortunately Cox departed due to the usual "creative differences," and this ill-fated adaptation was thrust upon Terry Gilliam, whose formidable gifts as a visionary filmmaker were squandered on the seemingly unfilmable elements of Thompson's ether-fogged narrative. The result is a one-joke movie without the joke--an endless series of repetitive scenes involving rampant substance abuse and the hallucinogenic fallout of a road trip that's run crazily out of control. Johnny Depp
plays Thompson's alter ego, "gonzo" journalist Raoul Duke, and Benicio Del Toro
is his sidekick and so-called lawyer Dr. Gonzo. During the course of a trip to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race, they ingest a veritable chemistry set of drugs, and Gilliam does his best to show us the hallucinatory state of their zonked-out minds. This allows for some dazzling imagery and the rampant humour of stumbling buffoons, and the mumbling performances of Depp and Del Toro wholeheartedly embrace the tripped-out, paranoid lunacy of Thompson's celebrated book. But over two hours of this insanity tends to grate on the nerves--like being the only sober guest at a party full of drunken idiots. So while Gilliam's film may achieve some modest cult status over the years, it's only because Fear and Loathing
is best enjoyed by those who are just as stoned as the characters in the movie. --Jeff Shannon
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
is a whirlwind of a movie, a wacky, drug-laden story backed by a fist-pumping rock & roll soundtrack featuring everything from Wayne Newton and Tom Jones to Combustible Edison and Dead Kennedys. Journalist Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) heads to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race, bringing along his Samoan lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro), in this furious adaptation of the book by Hunter S. Thompson. It is 1971, and Duke and Gonzo are on their way to Sin City with a frightened hitchhiker (a nearly unrecognizable Tobey Maguire) and a trunkful of drugs, which they ingest nonstop. Depp is terrific as Duke, Thompson's alter ego, and Del Toro is a riot as the crazy lawyer. To perfect his Thompsonian performance, Depp spent a lot of time with the good doctor, and it paid off in a film that captures the frenetic pace of the counterculture novel. Director Terry Gilliam, a master of complex, bizarre visual imagery, has a field day interpreting the drug-hazed world in which Duke and Gonzo reside. An all-star cast chimes in with wonderfully offbeat bit parts, including Harry Dean Stanton, Gilliam regular Katherine Helmond, Flea, Cameron Diaz, Ellen Barkin, Christina Ricci, Gary Busey, Lyle Lovett, and others.