“We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.”
These are the first lines in Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo piece, ‘Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas’, and you pretty much get the idea from the get go. The plot revolves around Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp), his attorney Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) and their trip to Las Vegas in a red convertible to cover the Mint 400 whilst in a drug induced haze.
When it was first released it was considered a box office flop after grossing only $10,600,000 with a budget of $18,500,000. Despite this, it has gone on to achieve a cult following.
The movie contains the surrealistic details of Terry Gilliam’s work which is what made the movie work. He was not the first choice as director however, but after creative differences between Alex Cox (the original director) and Thompson, Cox was fired and replaced by Gilliam. Thompson admitted that nobody could project his thoughts onto the screen as well as Gilliam could.
The acting was brilliant from both Depp and Toro. Both hardly recognizable with a bald Depp and a large Toro who gained 40 pounds for the role. He was seen 3 years earlier in the role of the tall and skinny Fenster in ‘The Usual Suspects’. Depp was great as always and his narration really held the the movie together well, but it was Toro who stole the show as the frightening 220 pound Samoan equipped with a hunting knife and under the influence of raw ether, mescaline and countless other drugs. Just like the director, Depp and Toro were not the first choice. The first choice duo were Jack Nicholson as Duke and Marlon Brando as Dr. Gonzo. How’s that for a compliment?
Fans of Hunter S. Thompson must have already seen this, and probably enjoyed it as much as the next fan. From the minute the book hit the shelves it was called unfilmable, but Gilliam has done a terrific job, has stayed true to the book and is extremely accurate from chapter to chapter.
**** 1/ 2