Posted tagged ‘raoul duke’

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Some kind of high-powered mutant

September 5, 2009

I’ve been meaning to watch this film for some time. I have a lot of trendy friends who often discuss important issues like Gonzo journalism. Dicks. After watching the film I can’t say I have a greater understanding of the subject. But from the all knowing Wikipedia, I understand it to mean when the journalists own life comes to be the story rather than what they were reporting.

If you watch the film, with no knowledge of the king of Gonzo – Hunter S Thompson, none of that will come across. Instead you have a film about drugs that is so potent in its delivery that it makes you feel intoxicated. My sister was so moved by the film that she had to stop watching it when our two heroes stumbled into a circus/casino.

fear and loathing

I need to stress something. Stumbled does not do justice to just how they two men walked into the venue. High on ether, a powerful anaesthetic, they inch their way to the entrance. Raoul Duke (skillfully played by Johnny Depp) walks with bowed legs at the best of times but in this scene he challenges gravity as best he can.

What Raoul Duke cannot do as an able-bodied biped, he makes up for with ingenious inner monologues. Raoul’s inner monologues are the motor of the film. Which is impressive for a guy who has a cigarette in his mouth at all times. Almost all the dialogue in the film can be attributed to Raoul, but that is in no way a bad thing.

As much as this film is the story of Hunter S Thompson, it is through the distinct lense of Terry Gilliam. I’m not going to lie to you, I love Terry Gilliam. Brazil and Monty Python and the Holy Grail are two of my favourite movies of all time. Whilst Fear and Loathing won’t earn such a high honour, it is never the less a good film.


Gilliam brings his usual richness to the visuals of this films. The lizard monsters (yes, lizard monsters) look incredible. The hotel suite the two men stay in as a terrifying mix of war zone, marsh and opium den. And not one actor looks savoury or wholesome in the whole film. They are all very sweaty too, it’s a bit like porn.

Where Gilliam falls short, in my opinion, is his editing. The scenes often seem to begin and end at very arbitrary points and don’t quite gel together. Granted, Raoul tries to describe how he keeps blacking out and this may be part of showing that. But, I’ve noticed this before in some of his films.

My favourite moment of the film came as a complete surprise. A man walks into a restroom and is horrified at what he saw. We are then treated to one of Raoul’s many musings on what was to become of this man. It was a tiny scene, with no significance to the plot, but it was also brilliant. I’d happily watch it as a one minute short.

In some moments of the film it was eerily similar to the 2000 film, Requiem for a Dream. Requiem is a far darker tale, but Fear and Loathing does take a nasty turn at the end of the second act. Raoul takes some drugs given to him by Satanists. This film obviously received an 18 rating. It cites its sole reason as “drug use.” The next time I see someone smoking a joint I will tell them to take some adrenochrome and stop misusing drugs.

This film has no problem keeping its head above water, but it’s not about to swim the channel. I’d recommend you see it just to hear this quote I want to use. We can’t stop here. This is bat country.


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