*WARNING* (must be 21 and older to continue reading)
Based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson and directed by Terry Gilliam, this wild trip through Vegas stars Johnny Depp as (Raoul Duke) and Benicio Del Toro as his lawyer (Dr. Gonzo). Depp plays a journalist who is assigned to cover the Mint 400, a moto-cross race in the desert, for the weekend. He opts to bring his lawyer with him, as well as a suitcase full of different drugs and alcohol. Needless to say, the weekend gets very insane, very quickly and a heavy dose of misadventures ensue.
There is a horde of events that take place in Fear And Loathing that may be difficult for the average moviegoer to comprehend. For this reason I have compiled a list of activities you may have needed to experience before watching this movie. IN NO WAY DO I CONDONE TAKING PART IN ANYTHING ON THE LIST AND HIGHLY SUGGEST THAT ANYONE READING THIS NOT DO ANY ACTIVITY OR EXPERIENCE THAT IS LISTED. With that being said, I will be honest with you; if you haven’t done or experienced 1 or more things on this list it may be difficult to understand and/or find any enjoyment or humor while watching this film. Here is the list in no specific order:
- Taken a hallucinogenic drug
- Been over the legal limit of alcohol intake
- Taken one or more hallucinogenic drugs simultaneously
- Taken a hallucinogenic drug and been over the legal limit of alcohol intake
- Been over the legal limit of alcohol intake while under the influence of multiple hallucinogenic drugs
- Interacted with sober person(s) while under the influence of a hallucinogenic drug
- Interacted with sober person(s) while intoxicated
- Interacted with sober person(s) while intoxicated and under the influence of a hallucinogenic drug
- Experienced a mind altering hallucination while under the influence of a hallucinogenic drug
- Experienced a mental breakdown
In other words you will have had to been extremely messed up on drugs and alcohol at some point in your life or had a complete mental breakdown to enjoy Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. For some reason I have a sneaking suspicion that everyone involved in this movie knew this and made the movie anyway. To that I say thank you; thank you for making this because there are few movies I have viewed in my life so far, that made me laugh as hard as I laughed while watching Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Although this sentiment may be singular or few people would agree, I loved this film from beginning to end; even through the slow scenes where the movie dragged a bit.
The movie begins with a jolt as Duke and Gonzo are racing past the desert on their way to Vegas. Like any typical road trip they are high on mescaline and a number of other narcotics. It is a miracle that either one of them was able to drive, as erratic as it may have been, to their destination. Gonzo stops to pick up a hitchhiker against the wishes of his companion. Duke was afraid of stopping the car because they were in “bat country” and his trusty fly swatter may not be enough to stop all of them. Were the bats real? Maybe, maybe not but who’s going to argue with a man on a mescaline binge? The hitchhiker, played by Tobey Maguire, was in for a valuable lesson of why you should never get in a car with strangers. Although this scene occurs during the beginning of the movie, it was one of my favorites. The beauty of this scene is in its simplicity. Both men truly are trying to be nice to the hitcher but the effects of the drugs can be seen seeping through their personality and mannerisms. While they believe their actions and words are friendly and joking, to a sober person they look bat-shit insane; no pun intended. Luckily he manages to escape after Raoul and the good doctor each take a hit of cocaine and begin ranting about a man named Savage Henry.
Did I tell you how much I love this movie? I’m sure that may make me a strange person or at least, my taste in movies strange but I like what I like. Back to the review!
Hotel check-in takes an extreme turn into depravity as Duke struggles to speak with the desk clerk. Normally a task like that is simple but not after a tab of sunshine acid has hit your system. As he talks to the woman her face expands and contracts like a balloon. Gonzo swoops in to save him just as the concierge’s head morphs into an eel and starts flying toward him. Then there is the lizard people at the bar who are writhing and having sex in pools of blood. I can’t really explain it in a better way than that and it’s something you have to see to believe.
Not much time is spent on his coverage of the Mint 400 because Duke doesn’t stay on the assignment long. His time there serves more as a break into the adventures of Duke and Gonzo’s bestial journey around Vegas; such as their trip to Bazooko’s Circus. Before either enters into the circus both take a nice big whiff of ether that they have doused from a bottle onto an American flag. Diethyl ether is a highly flammable liquid once used for general anesthesia but is known taken for recreational use as an inhalant or it can be drank which is highly dangerous. The effects of a small dose of ether is slight loss of bodly motor functions but larger doses can cause vomiting, unconsciousness or even death. While under the influence of ether a person would resemble the average drunkard so there would be no way to know what they were on without some form of medical test. I say all of this to explain why the ticket takers in front allowed both men in even though they could barely stand up; not stand up straight but just stand up at all.
Fear And Loathing isn’t all about drugs and attempts to touch on the social culture of America in 1971. In one portion Duke is assigned to cover a police convention on marijuana. The guest speaker is a gentleman by the name of L. Ron Bumquist and judging by his presentation he has never smoked marijuana in his life. He categorizes weed into 4 stages; cool, groovy, hip, and square and his explanation for these stages are as dumb as they are hilarious. Although none of this is actually real it lends good insight to the state of the police force towards the counter culture drug movement of the 60’s – 70’s.
Overall, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas is an abstract comedy with real and some unrealistic aspects of the mind of someone on a drug binge. While not as good as the book the movie comes close to capturing the feel of Hunter S. Thompson’s imagination and allegedly true story. None of this story can be corroborated but the visionary depths of the characters experiences and absurdity of many events that took place, push me toward the belief that some of it may have taken place. I realize how silly that sounds but I have had experiences close to some of the scenes in this movie….”allegedly”.
Even if you can’t relate to the characters or story check it out for the sheer insanity of it all. I give Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas an 8 out of 10!