Rapid Response: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

I won’t pretend I had any idea what was going on throughout “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” The film is based on Hunter S. Thompson’s famous novel of the same name, and with Terry Gilliam’s psychedelic drug trip filmmaking and Johnny Depp’s off the wall Thompson imitation, the film has become a cult classic.

For two hours, the film is a hodgepodge of hallucinogenic madness created by all the many drugs Thompson himself was addicted to back in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Gilliam’s camera wavers and wobbles as much as the completely doped up characters played by Depp and Benicio Del Toro, and his striking canted angles create for arguably the closest thing to recreating a bad drug trip on film. A good number of critics cited this mess of a movie as an aimless, pointless, repetitive and meaningless disaster, and although I can find just as little of a purpose to it all, the film does cast a considerable spell.

The film is remarkably well made, and performed. For all the Tim Burton fans who marvel at how quirky and weird Johnny Depp’s performances consistently are, they have not seen him here in what is his strangest performance next to Ed Wood. Depp’s mastery of the props like the cigarette holder he’s constantly biting on and simply over his body itself is astounding. A strangely comical moment comes when Depp is whacked out on ether and he loses control over his spinal column. He owns the scene.

I also noted how many other known actors and performers can be found in this 1998 film, including Cameron Diaz, Cristina Ricci, Tobey Maguire, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, Lyle Lovett, Verne Troyer, Ellen Barkin and by far in the weirdest role of his career, a young but not entirely different looking Jon Hamm as an uncredited hotel clerk.

There’s a cute College Humor video that’s been pulled from their site called “Rango and Loathing in Las Vegas,” in which lines from the “Fear and Loathing” trailer were dubbed over scenes from “Rango,” Johnny Depp’s new animated trip fest, although watching the movie now, the two are hardly comparable.

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