Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

Hunter S. Thompson’s 1971 account of taking drugs and behaving like an asshole in Las Vegas yields a singularly unpleasant 1998 feature from writer-director Terry Gilliam, though one with a lot of creativity and a scuzzy integrity of its own. There’s a good grasp of period, an impressive impersonation of the author-hero by an almost unrecognizable Johnny Depp, and a determination to honor the original in all its gross-out particulars. I assume that part of the idea here was to play in the ambiguous zones where Las Vegas tackiness, LSD hallucinations, Gilliam beasties, and lots of vomit become difficult to separate. It’s certainly distinctive, looking at times like Richard Lester put through a postmodernist blender, and Gilliam, an American expatriate since the 60s, skewers his native country with guts and zeal. 119 min. (JR)

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