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  • Writer's pictureDomenic

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas| Review

Updated: May 31, 2022

Terry Gilliam hardly ever shies away from surreal and "weird" filmmaking. His films often operate as complex puzzles, carefully aligned in the exact spots to execute a masterpiece. The attempt to bring Hunter S. Thompson's novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (a great read for any fans of alternative literature; and one of my favorite books besides The Catcher in the Rye) has failed again and again, due in part to a filmmaker not bringing to light the true nature of the book. This film, despite having a fairly low Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes score, stands as an underrated gem.

The film opens with The Lennon Sisters singing "My Favorite Things" alongside images of the 1960s protests and riots......"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold," Raoul Duke narrates as the infamous "Red Shark" car zooms across the screen. Duke (Johnny Depp) and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro) embark on a drug/alcohol-filled odyssey on their way to "Sin City". The plot adds to the novel's high-level quality, but never in a sense, resembles the novel/film itself; the novel is more of an exercise of reflecting on drug-filled havoc, and the "poetry" between the lines.

Alas, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas rightfully receives an adaptation that succeeds in establishing a cinematic counterpart to the novel at hand. The film's high quality derives from groundbreaking visuals and stellar direction. Hallucinative and dream-like visuals run rampant throughout the film. More of a visual experience than a narrative, the film's more in the vein of a character study. In retrospect, the novel too operates as an experience and more poetic than a simple plot and story. The only sub-par aspect of the film lies in a constant sense of dragging throughout the film and minuscule character development. Despite what some critics (mostly Roger Ebert) may say, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas remains a gem in an otherwise exceptional career.

Time Stamp: April 23, 2020

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