Thursday, April 03, 2008

Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

What can I say about this film that hasn't been said before. You either think it's a masterpiece or it's a pretentious piece of crap. There is no middle ground here. "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" is based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson. The novel is about his journey to LasVegas in 1971 to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race. Along with his buddy Doctor Gonzo Hunter's vacation turns highly irresponsible and reckless as the two consume copious amounts of illegal drugs, commit various acts of fraud, and generally wreak havoc upon the citizens of Las Vegas.

Like I said you either will love this film or not. I happen to be in the later camp. To sum it all up the film is visually creative, but also repetitive and devoid of character development. Johnny Depp plays Hunter S. Thompson (aka Raoul Duke) and Benicio Del Toro plays Dr. Gonzo Hunters partner in crime. The film is littered with skits of the two wasted on drugs. The film feels like it was shot with a wide angle lens to capture that drug hallucinations, and there is some interesting creature effects created by Rob Bottin whose work I greatly admire.

I could not get into this movie. I was annoyed by the characters, and had no sympathy. In fact I just hoped that something would happen that would end this picture. I've read that this film was plagued with problems from the beginning. When it came out the film was a failure, and pulled quickly, but now the film has had a cult like status evolve around it due to it's DVD release.

Terry Gilliam directs the film, and Depp does a good performance of Thompson. The movie is littered with guest appearances by such actors as Tobey Maguire, Ellen Barkin, Gary Busey, Christina Ricci, Mark Harmon, Cameron Diaz, Lyle Lovett, and Laraine Newman to name but a few. You would think with all this talent the movie couldn't miss, but it does. There is no real focus here other then to get to one skit to another. There is no character development here, and it is a very emotionless film.

Maybe that's what the filmmakers wanted. After all it's about a drug induced trip to Las Vegas. What else does the audience need to know. The only thing is that there isn't enough here to make me want to see this all the way through. I was tempted to just hit stop, and not continue, but I was always interested in this film, and I like some of Gilliam's other films.

If you like coherent plots, and interesting characters don't see this movie. I hear Criterion has put this out in their special criterion DVD collection. Why I don't know, but there does seem to be a small cult like following to this film, and maybe that's all it's suppose to appeal to. The demented few. For the rest of us I'd have to say stay clear. You've been warned.

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