Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Posted: September 9, 2009 in Joe Giambrone
Tags: , , , , ,

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

DVD: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Blu-ray: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas (Director’s Cut)

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson’s 1971 drug frenzied diary is brought to the screen care of Terry Gilliam, with Johnny Depp in the role of Thompson.

Thompson’s twisted prose and Depp’s narration are what make this descent into madness so completely hilarious. Thompson was a force of nature, his own rogue state provoking and challenging everyone everywhere he went. In the words of Tom Wolfe, each encounter with Thompson was “an event.”

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

Thompson juxtaposes utter paranoia and hallucination against the mainstream culture of the day. At any given moment, Thompson and his “armed to the teeth” attorney Oscar Acosta (played by Benicio Del Toro), are just one glance away from a life prison sentence. Their striving to “maintain” among the gamblers, staff and police is so completely absurd when both continue to ingest every mind-altering substance known to man.

Nice Room

So what was he trying to say?

It’s easy to dismiss Thompson as a nut or a kook. You would have quite a time finding a nuttier, kookier guy, especially if you were restricted to your real life acquaintances and didn’t have the luxury of perusing media stories or the internet. Thompson was certifiable, dangerous. He was a gun nut, a self-admitted “multiple felon,” a raving poet, a performance artist, and eventually he did commit suicide with a shotgun.

The Man

Thompson was also highly political and eager to critique American preconceptions, American government, American foreign policy and any American who crossed his path. This was the fiber of his being. He had a unique perspective and quite a vocabulary, and he wasn’t afraid to abuse it.


Two different Hunter Thompson documentaries came out last year. The better one was Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, with more intimate details and a better understanding of Thompson’s unique brand of crazy.

“A drugged person can learn to cope with things like seeing your dead grandmother crawling up your leg with a knife in her teeth. But nobody should be asked to handle this trip. Bazooko’s Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This was the sixth reich… Nonsense. We came here to find the American dream. Now that we’re right in the vortex, you want to quit? You must realize, man, we found the main nerve… Look. There’s two women fucking a polar bear.”

The 1960’s had crested, peaked and were rolling back. This defeat is the environment which Fear and Loathing emerges from. Thompson lamented the end of the era and the unfocused scattering of the movement.

His Las Vegas weekend seemed to be an attempt to take the drug culture myth to its logical conclusion and to find out what was at the end of the trip. Perhaps in his own way, he felt it was some kind of sacrifice or warning to others, throwing himself on the altar of drug-addled insanity, in the hopes of stripping it of its mystique and allure.

  1. […] good, even entertaining as the intoxicated journalist in the adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Smooth, irreverent dialogue, combined with Terry Gilliam’s fantastic realizations, provide a […]

  2. […] FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (1998) – Netflix link here. […]

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