A scene from 'Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas'
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**1/2 stars
119 minutes | Rated: R
WIDE: Friday, May 22, 1998
Directed by Terry Gilliam

Starring Johnny Depp & Benicio Del Toro, Christina Ricci, Gary Busey, Ellen Barkin, Cameron Diaz, Flea, Mark Harmon, Laraine Newman, Penn Jillette, Katherine Helmond, Lyle Lovett, Harry Dean Stanton, Tobey Maguire, Craig Bierko, Michael Jeter, Verne Troyer, Hunter S. Thompson (cameo)

Read our interview with Johnny Depp 1999 interview with actor Johnny Depp


A pre-ordained cult flick, Raoul Duke's drug-enduced Vegas adventures are probably safer to enjoy in the privacy of your own home, where you can play along without hurting anyone. You weren't gonna watch it SOBER, were you?

   VIDEO RELEASE: 6.15.1999
The 2003 Criterion Collection 2-disc set is everything DVD should be. Perfect sound and picture, three engrossing commentary tracks (with chapter indexes of their own separate from the film's chapter stops), and bonuses up the Gonzo.

Gilliam is having a ball watching the movie on his track, giggling at Depp's perfectly over-the-top performance and at the general chaos and absurdity he created. He reveals endless amusing tidbits, like the fact that every desert shot includes the same prop cactus and that the convertible in the film really is Hunter S. Thompson's "Red Shark," which Johnny Depp had driven from Aspen, where he'd spent a few weeks getting the Thompson vibe and stealing stuff from the guy (shirts to wear in the movie, etc.).

On track 2 producer Laila Nabulsi, Depp and Benicio Del Toro were recorded separately, but edited together very well. Depp tells tons of Thompson stories and all provide insights into what the book meant to them, politically, socially and...pharmaceutically. Depp remembers thinking, "My God. I can't believe I'm getting away with this." And Nabulsi talks about refusing to water down the film to please the studio.

And then there's Hunter S. Thompson's commentary...oh boy! Nabulsi tries to keep him on-topic with questions timed to the scenes in the movie. Sometimes it works ("My role was to whip these f**kers into line...and get paid!"). Other times he just goes bonkers, squealing "Yeeeeiiiiiiii!" for 10 or 15 seconds intervals for no discernable reason, yelping "Look at that freak!" when Depp's on screen, answering the phone in the middle of the movie and roundly, repeatedly tearing into anything he didn't like about the movie. But he clearly enjoys the film and dig's Depp's portrayal. And that's just in the first 12 minutes.

TONS! Deleted scenes (w/ optional Gilliam commentary). Letters written between Depp and Thompson, read aloud by Depp on camera. Two documentaries (one a 1978 BBC documentary about Thompson). A background featurette on Oscar zeta Acosta (the inspiration for Dr. Gonzo). Storyboards, stills, trailers & TV spots. A "look at the controversy of the screenwriting credit." Excerpts from an audio reading of "Fear & Loathing." Plus a huge booklet with an essay by film critic J.Hoberman and two pieces by Thompson.

RATIO: 2.35:1 (16x9 enhanced)
SOUND: 5.1 Dolby or DTS
DUBS: none
SUBS: English


  • Terry Gilliam
  • Johnny Depp
  • Benicio Del Toro
  • Christina Ricci
  • Gary Busey
  • Ellen Barkin
  • Cameron Diaz
  • Flea
  • Katherine Helmond
  • Lyle Lovett
  • Harry Dean Stanton
  • Tobey Maguire
  • Craig Bierko
  • Michael Jeter
  • Verne Troyer

  •  LINKS for this film
    Official site
    at Rotten Tomatoes
    at Internet Movie Database
    'Fear & Loathing' barely coherent, but quite apropos

    By Rob Blackwelder

    With a running commentary that quotes heavily from Hunter S. Thompson's 1971 novel for authenticity, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" has an incongruous, stream-of-consciousness tang that requires just the right mood to enjoy.

    As a sideline enthusiast of the self-proclaimed "gonzo journalist," I had a pretty good idea what I was in for, and so the film -- a barely coherent romp through the strung-out mind of an druggie journalist overdosing for days at a time in the world's trippiest city -- met my expectations. I certainly wouldn't call it a choice movie, but it is nothing if not apropos.

    My friend John, with whom I went to the press screening (which was at 10 a.m.), is a huge Thompson fan, and as such he spent all of the previous night getting ripped out of his skull. He loved the movie.

    Directed by Terry Gilliam, the film seems more concerned with capturing Thompson's inebriated spirit than with creating a sensible narrative about a addict reporter stuck in Las Vegas for a district attorney convention.

    The visual artuer who gave birth to the worlds of "Brazil" and "12 Monkeys," Gilliam is not one to quibble over such things as linear storytelling.

    Johnny Depp stars as Raoul Duke, Thompson's fictitious alter-ego. Shaved bald and chomping so viciously at his cigarette holder prop that his speech is slurred (or is that the drugs?), Depp at his most cartoonish here. He overplays the part with precision, and like his portrayal of Ed Wood, it's what the role calls for, since the character is a perpetually stoned paranoid.

    Over-emulating a bad drug trip with fish-eye camera lenses, Dutch angles and hallucinogenic special effects, "Fear and Loathing" is mostly hyperactive moments of spiked, random ramblings, spells of lurching humor and lethargic patches of complete boredom.

    Duke and his equally under-the-influence attorney (Benicio Del Toro, "The Usual Suspects") snort coke, smash up hotel rooms, pop pills, accost teenage girls and middle-aged couples, inhale ether, attend a desert motocross race (shot like war footage by Gilliam) and spend endless hours lost inside their own fun-house minds.

    But the movie doesn't really go anywhere.

    By leaning heavily on Thompson's ostensibly layered text for voice-over and dialogue, Gilliam seems to be hinting at an ironic message about the American condition in 1971. But beyond its few deft asides about the synthetic atmosphere that was taking hold in the country at the time ("The place reeked of high grade Formica and plastic palm trees," Duke observes), "Fear and Loathing" is largely a bohemian rumination on a Cheech and Chong movie.


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