Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

fear and loathing in las vegas poster 1998 movie
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 9/10

Strong visuals

Weak story, desperately cool

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Studio:  Rhino Films

Genre(s):  Drama/Comedy

Release Date(s):  May 22, 1998

MPAA Rating:  R

fear and loathing in las vegas hitchhiker tobey maguire johnny depp hunter s thompson

With great drug use comes little responsibility…

Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) has an assignment.  He’s headed to Las Vegas to report from a dirty bike race in the desert.  He’s going with his lawyer Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro), Raoul and Dr. Gonzo intend to take as many drugs as possible to make the Las Vegas heat bearable (which unfortunately can get in the way of work).  With paranoia building, Raoul is about to burn down Vegas and insult everyone along the way…no one is safe with the Duke in town!

Directed by Terry Gilliam, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas adapts Hunter S. Thompson’s 1971 semi-autobiographical novel.  The film faced years of production problems with multiple directors and actors tagged to be part of the adaptation.  The film received mixed reviews, bombed at the box office, but gained a cult status over the years.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #175).

I am not a Hunter S. Thompson fan.  I do however like Terry Gilliam.  My lack of enjoyment of Hunter S. Thompson outweighed my interest in Terry Gilliam in regards to this film.  Finally watching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I made a wise decision.

fear and loathing in las vegas gary busey officer johnny depp hunter s thompson

If he had arrested him, the movie might have been shorter…

The movie’s basic core is the problem.  While I can see the appeal of a drug book like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (it doesn’t appeal to me), the movie doesn’t translate well.  There is very little story, very poorly constructed “characters” (he’s named Raoul but it’s Hunter S. Thompson), and the outcome of the film doesn’t equal the movie’s duration.  It has a similar feel to Easy Rider at points, but Easy Rider is redeemed by the characters and the film’s outcome…Fear and Loathing doesn’t have that.

Johnny Depp gets to act as weird as he wants to as Hunter S. Thompson.  While he might mimic Thompson great, it is pretty much him acting bizarre…something he has done ever since.  You can see Jack Sparrow, Ichabod Crane, and even Willy Wonka in his performance…it helped build him a niche.  Benicio del Toro appears to be along for the ride (literally) in the film as someone who can bounce “wackiness” off Depp.  There are a ton of cameos including Tobey Maguire, Ellen Barkin, Christina Ricci, Cameron Diaz, Gary Busey, Katherine Helmond, Michael Jeter, Penn Jillette, Mark Harmon, Lyle Lovett, the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Flea, Harry Dean Stanton, Verne Troyer, Laraine Newman, and Christopher Meloni.  Hunter S. Thompson himself appears in a flashback scene.

fear and loathing in las vegas hunter s thompson cameo

Hunter S. Thompson makes a cameo

Visually, the movie is great.  Drugged up people make for great visuals and Gilliam has made a career out of creating absurdist visuals first with Monty Python and then his own film.  Scenes like a casino filled with dinosaurs and warping visuals really play to his directing…I just wish I enjoyed the movie more.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas feels like the type of story that appeals to people who are too scared to take drugs but want to feel they are counter-culture enough to read about people who take drugs.  The same (in my opinion) can be said about Thompson himself who seems to take drugs not to expand his writing ability but to make himself interesting…which seems kind of desperate.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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