Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas


So here’s the thing. I’m a big fan of Terry Gilliam. Huge. Brazil has long been one of my favourite films, as has 12 Monkeys. And I care for him, I really do. I almost cried witnessing the trials and tribulations of getting his Don Quixote film off the ground in Lost in La Mancha. I truly think he is one of The Great (living) Directors. However…

The problem is I often dislike the films of his that everyone else loves. A reliable director he ain’t, and his films don’t always hit the mark (dare I mention The Adventures of Baron Munchausen?). The Fisher King was a Gilliam film that I had meant to see for many many years. When I finally did get around to it, I didn’t really enjoy it, even though lots of people seem to worship the film. Fear and Loathing was another one of those Gilliam films that I simply had never got round to seeing. And now that I’ve seen it, I’m a little scared.

Fear and Loathing in Las VegasFear and Loathing in Las Vegas is certainly a favourite among cult movie and Gilliam specific fans alike. The problem is I didn’t really dig it.

Now, a lot of my friends have also read Hunter S. Thompson’s book, so maybe that explains it, but I failed to see exactly why Fear and Loathing is so popular. It’s basically an extended drug trip – disturbing, funny and disorienting at the best of times. Johnny Depp is (as always) fantastic, and Benicio del Toro certainly gives an unashamedly ugly performance. The amount of cameos was surprising, from Christina Ricci to Tobey Maguire, Cameron Diaz to Hunter S. himself. Oh, and I finally found another film with The Thirteenth Floor‘s Craig Bierko.

Unfortunately an ‘extended drug trip’ seems to be all that’s on offer here. The plot meanders, occasionally folding back on itself but never really going anywhere. Sure, it’s great when filmmakers don’t conform to the traditional Hollywood form, but all the same it has to be engaging. I was bored from about the 40 minute mark. I missed half the dialogue cos it was (strangely enough) being mumbled/yelled/whispered by a couple of drug f**ked weirdos. When I did hear what Raoul and Dr. Gonzo were saying, it was often hilarious, which makes it even more annoying that so much was missed. If I’d been in a similar state to the two main protagonists then maybe I’d have enjoyed it more.

There’s no other way to paint my experience of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It was disappointing, especially after wanting to see it for such a long time. I at a loss to see why everyone loves this film so much. Sure it’s cool to see a bar full of lizardmen, and it may be a great adaptation of a book, but as a film it doesn’t stand up too well on its own.

I promised myself that this review wouldn’t end up being an extended apology, but it pretty much has. Sorry about that.

Rating: 3.0 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 31st July 2005
Hoopla Factor: 2.5 stars

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