Movie Mini-Review: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

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A free-wheeling road trip with drug addicts is not for everyone. Many viewers are going to be disgusted, some will find it pretentious. Filming a drug-induced descent into madness can’t really help from becoming cinematic masturbation. And that’s why I liked this movie. Terry Gilliam (Brazil, Twelve Monkeys) sees things in a grotesquely exaggerated way that translates into the most fascinating movie-going experiences. Bestow this mad genius with material by the uber-subversive William S. Burroughs, and you won’t be able to leave the proceedings un-scarred.

Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro are very good together, a perfect pairing of point and counter-point, or as Gilliam once referred to them, the ‘chicken’ and the ‘slug’. Del Toro is absolutely fearless (in everything), especially in the bathtub scene where he orders Depp to kill him. Depp has been accused of caricature acting here, but if so, it’s an entertaining caricature to watch come to life. The diverse group of supporting players adds to an Alice in Wonderland feeling: Harry Dean Stanton, Gary Busey, Catharine Helmond, Christina Ricci, Tobey Maguire, Cameron Diaz, Mark Harmon, etc. My favorite bit part was Chris Maloni as the effeminite motel desk clerk.

Rating: 3.5/5 ★★★½☆ 

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About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)

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