Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) – Review

4 Stars

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is an unheralded masterpiece from the late 1990s. Terry Gilliam has not only filmed the “unfilmable”, but has delivered a film that feels alive, dangerous, and often hilarious. There is so much going on in every frame that it requires, at least, two viewings to catch all the imaginative surprises that are littered throughout the film. Johnny Depp does a spot-on Hunter S. Thompson impersonation, traces of which would resurface in his Jack Sparrow character, and its one of the actors’ greatest performances. The drug-fueled madness and bizarre behavior of it’s lead characters are either going to inspire laughter or derision from audiences.

Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his attorney Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) drive a red convertible across the Mojave desert to Las Vegas with a suitcase full of drugs to cover a motorcycle race. As their consumption of drugs increases at an alarming rate, the stoned duo trash their hotel room and fear legal repercussions. Duke begins to drive back to L.A., but after an odd run-in with a cop (Gary Busey), he returns to Sin City and continues his wild drug binge.

There is so much technical mastery that the film is dripping in style and cinematic literacy. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ,the movie, is better than the book that inspired it. I think that Terry Gilliam was the only filmmaker that could wrangle the source material into a streamlined two-hour powerhouse of a film. Is the movie essential? Not in terms of tackling world issues or heavy internal conflict. But it’s essential viewing for any film-lovers and those looking to see the best visualization of a psychedelic trip ever translated to the screen.

Director: Terry Gilliam
Stars: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Craig Bierko

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