Movie Review By Blue Velvet
Just before production began for the film "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," director Alex Cox parted ways with the cast and crew, leaving an intense hunt for his replacement. Who would or could take the helm of the project based on Hunter S. Thompson's way-out 1971 hallucinatory novel? Luckily the longtime original choice, Director Terry Gilliam, had no plans at the moment and stepped in to tightly fuse brilliantly absurd imagery to the book's screen adaptation. Still using the script written by Alex Cox and Tod Davies, Gilliam masterly upholds much of the story while spanning further dimension with the electrifying luxury of film medium.
As the story goes, Hunter S. Thompson, under the guise of Raoul Duke, heads out from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with his Samoan Attorney, Dr. Gonzo, and a narcotically well-endowed black suitcase. Duke's writing assignment of covering the Las Vegas 1971 Mint 400 motorcycle race quickly becomes less and less important just as his quest to find the American Dream grows increasingly passionate. Duke and his attorney sniff, snort, smoke and chug down drugs to the hilt while maintaining their paranoid wit and intelligence amidst the encroaching blinking neon and the 70's splashiness of Las Vegas.
Johnny Depp turns a crazy performance as the ever watchful Raoul Duke, while Benicio Del Toro as the mumbling brash Dr. Gonzo appropriately staggers around like a lost bear, shaking a shaggy head of dope and hair. Depp's Raoul narrates throughout the film, reading passages straight from the book with an air of paranoia and critical observation. While both actors deserve bravos for their performances, the underlying story coupled with Gilliam's timing and bold imagination gloriously shape the film into a brilliantly unique melange.
Of course no one could surpass the one-to-one rapport between a reader and the famed novel, but the film's script follows the book, diverging only to accentuate the mood of the text. Seen with an uncritical eye, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" stands out as a flippingly free trip which will grace midnight showings for decades to come.
© 1998 - Blue Velvet - Air Date: 06/03/98
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