The Wednesday Review – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke
Benicio del Toro as Dr. Gonzo
Directed by Terry Gilliam
The first thing you may notice is the rather short cast list for this weeks movie. This isn’t to say that Fear and Loathing lacks other characters, it merely says that said characters are part of such a drug fevered psychotic dream that you barely realise just who played said characters before your mind folds in on itself.
Fear and loathing is based upon the book by the same name, written by Hunter S Thompson as a thinly veiled version of the real life events he experienced during his time as a “gonzo journalist”. Reportedly this film spent many years to be made with actors such as Jack Nicholson and even John Belushi but varying reasons meant it was not to be for many years to come.
Much like the real life adventures of Hunter S Thompson, Fear and Loathing is a story that the audience experiences rather then watches. The disjointed narrative barely holds together, just like our protagonist, and the film is all the better for it.
Johnny Depp transforms himself into Raoul Duke, a thinly veiled analogue to the real Hunter S Thompson, and along with his Attorney, Dr Gonzo, played by the similarly disguised Benicio del Toro but journey to the fabled Las Vegas in order to write an article about the Mint 400 “The richest off-road race for motorcycles and dune-buggies in the history of organised sport!”. The film quickly devolves into a fiasco of drugs, hallucinations and general immoral actions.
I admit however that it can be a difficult film to watch. The first fifteen odd minutes is without doubt cinematic perfection of comedy, characterisation and acting. After that the film loses a bit of its steam and flip flops a bit between the different events in the film. It is by no means a bad thing necessarily but the opening is by far and away the strongest part of the film.
The film would undoubtedly have not worked had it not been for the excellent performances by Johnny Depp and Del Toro. It is rare to find a role that the actor is so completely lost in that you lose all sight of the original actor and fully believe that this is the real deal. Depp and Del Toro both pull this off remarkably and easily carry the film along its less then normal paths.
It is also rather easy to spot the directorial influences from Terry Gilliam with scenes of men and woman turning into reptiles and Duke walking around a flooded hotel room with a tape recorder taped to his chest. The themes are largely reminiscent of his previous works and frankly I cannot think of any other director more capable then creating the visual idea of a man in a ether binge.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is an easily recommended film. It will definitely not cater to some people and I must warn that if you have a particular issue with drugs, drug taking and drug collecting then this film is perhaps not to your taste. To everyone else, see this film.
Four salt shakers of cocaine out of five.