When a book is considered by
many to be "unfilmable," that
might be an indication that it's actually unfilmable. Many believed that
if anyone could take Hunter S. Thompson's book and make it into a watchable
movie, it would be Terry Gilliam, who's brought some delightfully oddball
work, like 12 Monkeys and The Fisher King, to the screen in the past decade.
Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro,
and Tobey Maguire
Now, to be honest, I haven't read Hunter S. Thompson's book. Still, one
shouldn't have to have read the book that a movie is based on to enjoy
it. It helps one to point out differences and make the inevitable comparison
between the two works, but it shouldn't be a requirement to sit through
a film and decipher it. In the case of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,
it might have helped me understand just what I was supposed to be watching.
Apparently, Thompson (Johnny
Depp), under his journalistic pseudonym, Raoul Duke, has traveled to
Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race. He takes
his "attorney", Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro), and a briefcase
full of drugs with him to help enhance his coverage of the event. After
taking at least some or, usually all, of each drug in the briefcase, and
drinking more than their fair share of alcohol, things begin to unwind
during the trip.
Armed only with this all-too-meager attempt at setting up a story, the
film degenerates into a series of run-ins with different characters in
and around Las Vegas, which allows for cameos by stars like Gary Busey,
Christina Ricci, Mark Harmon, and Cameron Diaz. All of these run-ins are
filtered through a drug-induced haze which propels Raoul and Dr. Gonzo
into hysterical paranoia and provides further excuses for scenes full
of confused expressions, vomiting, and knife-wielding.
The movie, which weighs in at a bloated 2 hours and 15 minutes, is way
too long, especially when it really doesn't have a beginning or an end.
We join these characters in mid-binge and follow them to just past mid-binge.
Nothing really earth-shattering happens to them. No lessons are learned
from their experiences. No interesting information is culled from watching
them trash hotel rooms and mumble unintelligibly through their scenes.
Some minor mention is made about drugs once being used to broaden awareness,
but now they deaden the pain of reality. The behavior of Raoul and Dr.
Gonzo, as the film depicts them, can't really be categorized as either
enlightening or numbing. It merely looks like they have no clue how to
function as normal human beings.
While there are a few humorous scenes, most of the movie is tedious and
dull. Johnny Depp, who's always good in whatever he does, is the only
watchable part of this film. Unfortunately, the rest of the film's hideous
nature buries his performance.
Even if you can't find any other movie to see this summer, avoid this
Depp's first screen appearance was in the 1984 horror movie, A
Nightmare on Elm Street. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)