“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” marks the return of visual genius Terry Gilliam. It’s ensemble cast includes Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro along with a plethora of cameos including Ellen Barkin, Scott Gilliam, Gary Busey, Cameron Diaz, Harry Dean Stanton, Mark Harmon, Katherine Helmond and, rounding out her “I’m 18 with breasts” trilogy, Christina Ricci. “Fear and Loathing” is based on the cult novel by Hunter S. Thompson and thought by many to be an unadaptable story, which may explain why Scorsese and Nicholson failed to bring the book to the big screen in the 1970’s.
This edgy, social satire’s plot is quite simple: Two friends, one a journalist (Depp) and the other a lawyer (Del Toro), drugged out of their minds, go on a “trip” to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race and ironically … an anti drug conference. On this ride we follow the two characters from casino to casino and from hallucination to hallucination with no real destination.
While entertaining early on, these drug-induced trips become increasingly repetitive as the story progresses. This is where the lack of a narrative storyline really cripples a visually brilliant film. Since there is no real journey for these characters, we never have any idea where we are or where we are going, although given the subject matter, this is definitely not an accident on the part of the filmmakers.
“Fear and Loathing” is the kind of movie that will grow on you like a cancer, as most Gilliam films tend to. So to quote Mr. Gilliam: “Buy a ticket and take a ride … a serious ride, not like Godzilla…”