Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The adventures of two grown men on a multiple drug trip are limited to falling down in public and trashing hotel rooms. Paranoia has a look in, a fierce hunting knife plays its part and food is thrown about (up).

Finally, excess is all there is. How far can a brain be abused before madness takes possession? You find out.

Copy picture

Fear And Loathing originated in Rolling Stone magazine during the period that Joe Eszterhas was chief crime writer. Hunter S Thompson invented a new kind of journalism, in which the reporter (himself in various guises) goes off on an assignment and makes a complete tit of it.

The story's in the failure, such as when he and his South American lawyer drive to Las Vegas to cover a motorbike race and a narcotics convention. They spend their time ingesting every known banned substance and behaving like lunatics.

What made Thompson's report on his Vegas jaunt so unforgettable was the energy in the writing. Terry Gilliam has to find a way of transferring this into a visual language. Who better, you say, than the anarchic japester, responsible for such imaginative blasts as Brazil and The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen?

After performing a few hallucinatory tricks, he's stuck with the trashing hotel rooms and falling about routines, followed by a hairy car ride that makes a change from frightening women and intimidating room service. Dialogue is occasionally coherent, although more often than not it's grunted or mumbled to indicate chemical interference in the verbal response department.

The lawyer (an inspired performance from Benicio del Toro) can be a scary beast, roaring and bumping into furniture. Thompson (a physical tour-de-wreck from Johnny Depp) appears incapable of operating without stuff up his nose, or down his throat. How he manages to write his name - remembering it would be good - let alone 5000 words of gonzo prose, is a mystery.

Not surprisingly, Gilliam uses voice over (too much?) to give a taste of the Hunter S style and help explain what on earth is going on.

It is 1971. The hangover from the Sixties has kicked in and idealism lies wasted. The film is not a requiem to better days, rather a celebration of chaos as the one true way. Life in Straightsville is seen as manipulative, exploitative, ignorant and ugly.

Life in Mescalin City is unpredictable, funny, incapable and far out. Eventually, it becomes a drag. Too much of a weird thing leads to repetitive behaviour. What can a filmmaker do then?

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
Share this with others on...
Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas packshot
The psychadellic exploits of a lawyer and Journalist in the city of excess.
Amazon link

Director: Terry Gilliam

Writer: Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni

Starring: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Tobey Maguire, Ellen Barkin, Gary Busey, Christina Ricci, Mark Harmon, Cameron Diaz, Katherine Helmond, Michael Jeter, Penn Jillette

Year: 1998

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:


Search database: