Friday, September 27, 2013

Movie Review - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Paranoid, unpredictable and out of control, Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his lawyer Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) venture through a drug bender in Las Vegas.  Adapted from the legendary journalist's book of the same title, Hunter S. Thompson's real life experiences and Terry Gilliam's strong direction create a marriage in psychedelic heaven.  Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas delivers all of the drugged up wackiness of a binge gone too long and taken too far.

To the inexperienced with psychedelics, most of this film probably won't make sense on a few levels.  There isn't much of a discernible plot: stuff happens, but nothing truly develops logically.  Dialogue is spoken, but most of it doesn't seem important except the narration.  Francis Ford Coppola famously stated that Apocalypse Now, " not about is Vietnam."  Fear and Loathing isn't a film about drugs, it is a drug.

 Much like the desired and adverse effects of taking too much LSD or smoking too much marijuana, there are two major tones in the film:  The fear, then the loathing.  The adventure begins as they start the drive into Vegas.  The fear sets in as they arrive to check into the first of many hotel rooms.  The acid kicks in, and Duke panics when he concludes he is too gone to deal with the check in lady.  This continues with many funny and baked results.  Then the mood shifts into a darker, much more menacing half where lines are crossed and the altered states feel inescapable.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas isn't just about the hallucinogenic trip either.  It draws parallels to an era of transition from the 1960s to the 1970s.  After the drug trip, the movie concludes as if it all was a prolonged haze of confusion in a city with empty promises of the American Dream.  Drug culture became more of an escape from the brutal realities than a movement for peace and love.  

 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is currently available for stream on Netflix.

Rated R for pervasive extreme drug use and related bizarre behavior, strong language, and brief nudity



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