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12 reviews, 135 user ratings

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
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by Rob Gonsalves

"'The Star-Spangled Banner' as sung by shrieking banshees."
5 stars

The subtitle of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," Hunter S. Thompson's classic work of Gonzo Journalism, is "A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream," and that's the key to appreciating both the book and Terry Gilliam's astonishing film version.

The surface reading of the "story" would be that of two guys wandering around Vegas getting loaded and having a variety of progressively insane misadventures. Its true subject, though, is the sea-to-shining-sea derangement of America, its uneasy mix of forbidding Puritanism and greedhead capitalism, its straight-arrows who seem weirder than the weirdos, the "normal" recreational activities so bizarre they render drug hallucinations redundant.

The great rebel Terry Gilliam is ideal for this material, and he approaches Fear and Loathing as a sort of extension of the odd little cut-out animations he used to do for Monty Python. This is his best work since Brazil, and very likely the most vivid and mesmerizing American comedy of the '90s. (Typically, the reviews in America have been, well, savage.) Working with cinematographer Nicola Pecorini, and shooting for the first time in Panavision (which intensifies his trademark wide-angle distortions), Gilliam crafts a beautiful/ugly visual poem, a jittery, deadpan exercise in hellish red and aqua blue and paranoid green -- the American dream as peyote nightmare.

Johnny Depp immerses himself in the role of "Raoul Duke" (i.e., Thompson), a sportswriter who goes to Vegas to cover the Mint 400 (a desert race for motorcycles and dune buggies). Along for the ride is "Dr. Gonzo" (Benicio Del Toro), a wild Samoan attorney inspired by Thompson's friend Oscar Acosta. Their rented red Chevy convertible is a drugstore on wheels -- the movie could be retitled Apothecary Now. The men are always snorting or smoking one evil thing or another, stumbling around casinos while completely twisted on ether or acid. Oddly, sex doesn't play much of a role, except for an artistic runaway waif (Christina Ricci) the attorney picks up. Duke is as asexual as the lizards he hallucinates.

Which could be part of the point. Fear and Loathing is about the ways American men sublimate sexual lust -- through idiotic, punishing sports, or firearm worship, or fascism (Duke also -- hilariously -- covers a narc convention). Despite the occasional threats and knife-waving, our anti-heroes are as close as soldiers in a foxhole, and Depp and Del Toro bring out the best in each other. Del Toro, packing an added 40 pounds, does his most lucid and comprehensible work (amazing, considering the wacked-out loon he's playing), and Depp doesn't just imitate Thompson -- he channels the man's rubbery outlaw spirit. Funny and repulsive, obnoxious yet in some ways pitiable, Depp's performance should kill, once and for all, whatever pretty-boy image he still has left.

Gilliam wisely uses Thompson's writing as narration, and the script -- which he cowrote with Tony Grisoni, reworking an early attempt by Alex Cox (Sid & Nancy) and Tod Davies -- is scrupulously faithful to the book. Yet Gilliam doesn't let Thompson off the hook -- the movie isn't just a jokey celebration of weirdness. In scenes like the one with Ellen Barkin as a waitress terrorized by the knife-wielding attorney, Gilliam measures the human cost of his heroes' bad craziness. Those who complain that the film glorifies its protagonists just aren't paying attention. Duke and his attorney fancy themselves wild outsiders, but they're just as much a part of hellish America as the monsters they encounter. In fact, they're more: living it up, trashing ritzy hotel rooms, getting away with everything short of murder, they embody the American dream in their own addled, squalid way -- a nightmare of excess and consumption.

That's the true horror and comedy of the book, and Gilliam gets every bit of it onto the screen. Thompson's book has endured for 27 years, and not just because of its drug-induced strangeness: like William Burroughs' Naked Lunch, it uses hallucinatory states as a funhouse mirror on the sordid, ugly face of humanity.

Gilliam's film will likewise endure, and outlive the short-sighted critical bashing. Years from now, it will be reappraised as a misunderstood masterpiece. Well, this is one American critic who's not waiting until years from now, if you catch my drift.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/26/06 16:10:03
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User Comments

11/05/17 FireWithFire All I got was Fear and Loathing of terry gilliam and hunter thompson. SELFISH DEVILS!!!! 1 stars
8/24/16 Matt “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take 5 stars
2/17/15 vid “But our trip was different. It was a classic affirmation of everything right and true an 5 stars
4/15/14 Al Without a doubt one of the most twisted, depraved and utterly brilliant films of the 90's. 5 stars
5/19/12 mr.mike Grows tiresome but the humor of the 2 stars make it worth seeing. 4 stars
6/09/11 JiffyPop The most repeatably watchable film other than The Big Lebowski 5 stars
5/24/10 Scott I've seen this movie at least 25 times and I will watch it over and over through the year 5 stars
12/28/09 Ralle Yeah, welcome to the happy place... 5 stars
7/19/08 Shaun Wallner Depp is so funny!! 5 stars
7/02/08 Chris EXELLENT! This film is a benchmark in acting skills 5 stars
4/28/08 Jeremy This is one of a kind cinima 5 stars
1/13/08 Quigley One of the strangest films ever made, but also very interesting. Incredible Johnny Depp 5 stars
12/03/07 SamanthaP depp and del toro are both freaking amazing in this movie 5 stars
4/19/07 marc awesome,mindblowin movie 5 stars
10/16/06 sean this film changed my life..amazing 5 stars
3/22/06 giles flowitt-hill wicked movie.......i know how the guy feels :P 5 stars
2/05/06 nat good movie to watch while trippin 5 stars
12/18/05 Bree There are no words. It just rules like Mao Tse-Tung 5 stars
11/10/05 zeitgeist Brilliant, hilarious, imaginative. And the book is even better! 5 stars
10/13/05 John smith yo you suck this movie rocked 5 stars
10/08/05 bEeN fucking awesome....... everytime i see this movie again, i see something new. 5 stars
9/24/05 D Buckley puke 1 stars
9/17/05 james althputh 5 stars
7/18/05 Eric Rollins A bad trip, makes me yearn for Bill Murray's fiasco. 2 stars
7/09/05 asina gilliam, depp and del toro are brilliant. 5 stars
6/27/05 matt AWESOME, but you can only understand it if you've done drugs 5 stars
3/15/05 Andrea Am I tripping?? College deja vu! 4 stars
2/17/05 Naka "Bleh, it has no plot, it makes no sense." SHUT UP AND HAVE FUN! So much fun despite flaws. 5 stars
8/27/04 the bride Who said anything about slicing you up? I just wanna cut a little Z in your forehead... 5 stars
8/08/04 Patrick Landry Feels like you're tripping along with the Duke! 5 stars
8/04/04 burnowski absolutely incredible, depp and del torro's best performance 5 stars
7/24/04 Desperado There he goes, one of god's own prototypes... too weird to live and too rare to die 5 stars
7/10/04 R.W. Welch Bizarre, often funny trip flick. Rambles on some but neatly written. 4 stars
6/07/04 Elena Basically, anything about drugs is going to seem awesome. But this truly is a genius film. 5 stars
3/29/04 Samuel Johnny Depp's best performance ever!!! 5 stars
2/02/04 Raven there ISN'T a better drug movie 5 stars
1/27/04 y2mckay If you're baked, it's worth 4 stars. If you're not, it's worth about 2. So, I'll give it 3 3 stars
1/24/04 Nebenniere Der film is geil, mein leben... 5 stars
1/05/04 cwlg420 A must see for any college freshmen 5 stars
12/28/03 jan the greatest film about drug abuse ever 5 stars
11/06/03 tell me about the golf shoes this is the best fuckin movie ever 5 stars
10/29/03 Branagh Hater "A dog fucked the pope, no fault of mine."- Raoul Duke 5 stars
10/13/03 herman ho-ching very interesting movie i reccommend it 5 stars
10/13/03 Erik Van Sant Terrifying, hilarious, and visually stunning. Depp is amazing as is Gilliam's direction. 5 stars
9/17/03 Samuel Justus Great Movie, it seems that Independent films are better than mainstream films! 5 stars
9/08/03 Manny Bothans 'A' Class...#1 5 stars
8/10/03 Phil Learning to cope with your dead grandmother crawling up your leg with a knife in her teeth 5 stars
8/03/03 Lorraine Emanuele F&L=the "Whipped Cream of Chaos" for which Humanity perpetually craves and quests. 5 stars
7/16/03 Mr. Hat Depp and Gilliam should've won lots of awards. Del Toro and the soundtrack kick ass, too. 4 stars
5/12/03 Jack Bourbon Gotta love the graceful ether-affected entrance. 4 stars
5/10/03 berserker I've never seen it without being under the influence of some wonderful drug. Funny as hell. 5 stars
5/03/03 sleepy awesome film 5 stars
4/11/03 Xavier Amazingly acurate portrayal of an extremely funny book 5 stars
3/28/03 JEAN-PIERRE FRANCOIS LUC it's a very good movie 5 stars
3/17/03 Fenster Gimme the fuggin' acid, ya fuggin' cocksuckah! 1 stars
3/06/03 Glenn scary close to the feeling 5 stars
3/02/03 Jack Sommersby Overdirected, nonsensical garbage. Targeted for artsy gullibles. 1 stars
1/09/03 willy a classic drug film 5 stars
11/16/02 snowconehead This is the greatest movie ever made 5 stars
11/14/02 NIck mccoy This is the greatest movie of all time!!! 5 stars
10/26/02 MarktheShark6 You'd have to be a raging drug addict to like this movie, but I guess that's the life, huh? 1 stars
10/15/02 Charles Tatum Overdoses on its own attitude; Hunter is a colossal asshole anyway 1 stars
10/02/02 Joe Excellent rendering by Gilliam, Depp, and del Toro of Thompson's wildly unfilmable book. 5 stars
9/28/02 Peter Sherlock The book is superb. This film boring despite Johnny Depp The Wonderful. 1 stars
9/25/02 Morally Sound Return to the Circus-Circus. . . Looking for the Ape. . . to hell with the American Dream! 5 stars
9/08/02 .Choadushouse. 100% INSANE. Lots of funny shit and the actors are fucked up!!! This is good! 4 stars
8/24/02 Turkish great movie about the phsycology of drugs, and butterbean is a fuckin fruitcake 5 stars
7/31/02 Corey Mar One of the most beautiful productions I have ever viewed... if you understand it that is. 5 stars
7/27/02 sdjfsdkjf mild curiousity perhaps Jackie? How else would we form opinions? It wasn't sick it was SHIT 1 stars
7/21/02 Jackie For all the people who said it makes you sick & has no story line then why did you see it? 5 stars
7/08/02 snowconehead greatest movie ever made 5 stars
6/04/02 zotteLORRE blurred, drugged-out reality 5 stars
4/30/02 stoolie-bird you can't appreciate this movie if you've never had a drug filled road trip. 4 stars
4/29/02 Monster W. Kung Bad, unfunny and boring movie. I can't believe Gilliam did this. 2 stars
4/25/02 Charles Tatum Watch Breakfast of Champions or Requiem for a Dream instead 2 stars
4/09/02 Butterbean Totally unwatchable! I would be better off holding a kaleidoscope to my eye! 1 stars
3/01/02 Alan Smithee What in the hell were they thinking?!! Mr. Gilliam actually made a terrible film.......... 1 stars
2/21/02 luda hoe sure, i didn't know what was going on, but it was still bitchin 4 stars
2/16/02 sauerkrout I was roarin 5 stars
1/30/02 da_punk "Don't stop here, this is bat country" 5 stars
1/14/02 Andrew Carden Unfunny and Confusing Movie. Gives Gilliam A Bad Name. 2 stars
12/30/01 sarafina I think I fell off the sofa twice watching this 5 stars
12/11/01 viking anyone with half a brain would steer clear of this crap. 1 stars
11/16/01 daniboy what the fuck? 5 stars
11/08/01 Mark Too confusing to enjoy. Horrible compared to Cheeck and Chong's movies 1 stars
9/23/01 Elgyn "I ride the big fuckers....you know, the BIG fuckers!" 5 stars
9/15/01 -=Da{-_-}Hypno=- MY TASTE! heheh 5 stars
5/03/01 Gracy Lionheart Interesting in a way, but most of it was BORING!!! 2 stars
3/27/01 Jesse L If you like Hunter Thompson, and you liked "Where the Buffalo Roam" this is a letdown 1 stars
3/08/01 master Greatest movie ever made on acid 5 stars
3/05/01 nazipunkme@hotmail.com look what GOOOOD did to us. God didn't do that you asshole, you did. 5 stars
1/16/01 the Grinch WHITE RABBIT! Plays like Cheech and Chong's evil twins. Hilarious and well filmed! 5 stars
1/12/01 Emily "Bat Country!" incredibly quotable and witty. it gets better every time you see it. 5 stars
12/24/00 bub im hit!!! 5 stars
12/17/00 Andrew I can't believe I sat through the whole thing. It sucked but something wouldn;t let me turn 2 stars
11/15/00 MiS^DeMeAnOr I hated it, the was told the book was better, somehow i don't think so... 1 stars
11/05/00 Jinx "One toke you poor fool! Wait till you see those goddam bats man!" 5 stars
11/03/00 Mark and Bob "Make that bastard chase you, he will follow" - Marvellous !! 5 stars
8/15/00 Drew Vogel Hilarious, terrific 5 stars
7/13/00 Joseph Schmolsky Weak interpretation of an important novel 2 stars
6/26/00 yankee decent, lacks any plot, a couple laughs along the way 3 stars
6/23/00 Aaron White The best pro-drug(?) movie we can hope for. Visionary in a bleak fashion. 4 stars
6/03/00 Bob Wombat "We can't stop here! This is Bat Country!" Brilliant 5 stars
5/22/00 EZ AS Rather boring unless your on artificial stimulants 3 stars
5/06/00 perverted pixie Thompson's novel+Terry Gilliam+Johnny Depp= Complete insanity, of course! 5 stars
2/15/00 Kyle Broflovski Blark. Some things are just better left as words. 2 stars
12/04/99 Alyssa JD nailed Hunter S. Great acting. 5 stars
9/24/99 David Myers Nothing I want nothing 5 stars
7/14/99 Marshy They said it was unfilmable and it is. You will be bored. Use drugs. 3 stars
6/14/99 Dylan A bit fucking odd this. The book is average but the film is surprisingly entertaining. 4 stars
5/04/99 Big Dog oh god, did you eat all of this acid? 4 stars
4/14/99 Jon Jackson Trippy dude. 4 stars
3/14/99 Ah Dooey There was a drug movie?! 5 stars
3/10/99 burke if you didn't read the book you won't appreciate the way gilliam brought it to life. 5 stars
1/11/99 Johny Top 10 of '98 5 stars
1/03/99 Jeff This movie was like an acid trip--It started out fun, then got really boring. 2 stars
12/30/98 Todd "Ignore this terrible drug" 5 stars
12/10/98 Marion Davies Worst, most insulting piece of shit I've ever seen! Disgusting, poorly acted & directed! 1 stars
9/27/98 Brandon B. Hunter S Thompson is just plain Gonzo. 5 stars
9/26/98 Maegs The destruction alone is worth checking it out. 4 stars
9/17/98 Dutch If i hadn't started a fight with the dude behind me, it would have gotten 5 stars. 4 stars
8/29/98 Matt once you get over the slightly unusual plot, its a damn funny flick 4 stars
8/24/98 The Capital City Goofball Drug movies make me dizzy. 3 stars
8/20/98 The Man With The Helmet Hunter S. is a living legend. He should be put in a glass case at the Smithsonian. 4 stars
8/17/98 Kimberly 2 of the best hours I've spent in a theatre alone ! =) 5 stars
8/16/98 Pythomas Terry Gilliam does his job as queasily expected. Not for the faint-hearted. 5 stars
8/16/98 Miss Stress it was like a really bad acid trip, something i would not want again 2 stars
8/15/98 Johny Fucking Bats. 4 stars
8/14/98 Minipulator I've done mushrooms. I've done mesculine. This tripped me out more. 4 stars
8/11/98 Beetchslarp Whoa, mama. Was I on cookies. 2 stars
6/03/98 Eileen It wasn't that great, just like all of Terry Gilliam's films. Oogah.. 3 stars
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  22-May-1998 (R)
  DVD: 18-Feb-2003


  16-Jul-1998 (MA)

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