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The big-screen version of Hunter S. Thompson's seminal psychedelic classic about his road trip across Western America as he and his large Samoan lawyer searched desperately for the "American dream"... they were helped in large part by the huge amount of drugs and alcohol kept in their convertible, The Red Shark. Written by
When Gonzo is in the bath, the watch behind him appears and disappears between shots. See more »
We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like:
I feel a bit lightheaded. Maybe you should drive.
Suddenly, there was a terrible roar all around us, and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, and a voice was screaming:
Holy Jesus. What are these goddamn animals?
[swatting the air]
Huh! Huh! Huh! Fucking pigs.
Did you ...
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The credits literally scroll up the freeway. See more »
Don't do drugs, just see this movie- Gilliam's masterpiece, perhaps
Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a psychedelic comedy, but also an astute piece of literature-cum-political science on a period in American history that was just really strange, thus reflected by its creator. It was the pioneer in 'Gonzo journalism' and sent Thompson's star even higher than it had with Hell's Angels. Although it's one of my personal favorite books, it could have been tricky to adapt it- Alex Cox tried and failed- but somehow Terry Gilliam digs into the Thompson psychology, dementia, and off-the-wall humor, while also putting his unmistakable mark on the material. Two sensibilities thus merge, alongside the tremendous performances (underrated, despite the praise from fans) from Depp and Del-Toro. It asks an essential question- how does society end up crossing paths with the outlaws? But there's more than that- much more in fact- but it takes more than one viewing. I remember writing the first time I saw it: "This film is so bizarre you might just want to put down the bong and get high from this movie (after all, the movie contains every single known drug known to man since 1544)."
Granted, it's immediate appeal is that of a midnight movie, the ultimate midnight movie, as a work where the visual style is cranked up to a queue that goes even further than past Gilliam ventures. Distorted, sometimes tilted, widescreen angles, very bright, strange colors via Nicola Pecorini, and a beating soundtrack loaded with everything from Jefferson Airplane to Tom Jones to Bob Dylan to Debbie Reynolds (what kind of rat bastard psychotic would put that on right now, at this moment)! And aside from Depp and Del-Toro, who immerse themselves to the hilt (Depp especially is in a form here comparable to his Pirates movies- you can't see anyone else play the character, and at the same time you almost can't recognize him, a credit to Depp's 'method' style), there's hilarious supporting work from Craig Bierko, Tobey Maguire, Gary Busey, Harry Dean Stanton (Castration!), and Christina Ricci, and even an extremely moving and dangerous scene with Ellen Barkin.
It's not an easy film, to be certain, and it will likely appeal to those who may think 'ah, drugs, I like drugs, must be my kind of movie'. But it's not that simple; it's actually fairly critical of drug use, in an overblown, Fellini-esquire satirical manner (eg Adrenochrome, which is a tiny landmark of gonzo film-making to complement the author), and there really is no point where Gilliam, Thompson or the characters say 'take drugs'. On the other hand, there is also a critical attitude, a refreshing and brilliant one, on authority, like at the DEA convention at the hotel- again, strange times in society. At the same time the film is superb as escapist fun, in the darkest and craziest ways that only a maverick like Gilliam and his people can pull off, it's also got some layers in the substance, of Duke and Gonzo almost as relics from a former era already in 1971. With consistently quotable dialog, excruciating moments of depravity, and some of the most outrageous production design in any film, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is an unlikely cult classic, and in its own delirious fashion a possible definitive work from the director alongside Brazil.
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