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In the early 70s, journalist Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) is sent to Las Vegas to cover a desert motorcycle race. Accompanied by his dishevelled lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro), the two take the "high" road to Vegas, hallucinating en route and on arrival. Although they briefly attend the race, the two mainly spend their time doing even more drugs, trashing their hotel rooms, and briefly interacting with a variety of other people, including Lucy (Christina Ricci), a young religious girl Gonzo introduces to drugs, a magazine reporter (Mark Harmon), a highway patrolman (Gary Busey), and a local waitress (Ellen Barkin). In rebellion against Vietnam and the whole Nixon ethos, the two continue their drug-drenched stay with ever increasing intensity.

"The endearingly juvenile antics of an otherwise intelligent journalist – a man who can clinically, savvily and humorously analyse himself while stupefied on drug cocktails that would kill a lesser man – don’t add up to much more than a hill of beans. Not on screen, anyhow. This looks like it should be read in a book…Oh, was it? Well that’s it then. It should have been left there. To actually see the images instead of imagining them changes the dynamic and the whole affair lurches into seediness, sleaze and too much vomit on screen. (An homage to Bruce Beresford for Bazza Mackenzie, no doubt.) A handful of starkly funny moments and endless colour and movement don’t quite make up for what is a rough ride over indulgent territory – indulgent for both the characters and the filmmakers. There is no danger of associating with the characters in any empathetic way, so there is no emotional journey. And on top of it all, Johnny Depp disappoints with mannerisms and face pulls that do not pass muster as good acting."
Andrew L. Urban

"The big problem of translating an internalised reflective work from prose to the screen is the way the different mediums handle the imagery. The written word is an enticing launch pad to ignite the imagination; the mind can create it’s own fantasies. On screen, Gilliam’s interpretation of the work is stylised, over-the-top and blatantly in-your-face. There’s not much left to the imagination: the result is a crass and vulgar trip devoid of subtleties and replete with excess. As Andrew says, there’s too much vomit in the toilet bowl. There’s a scene set on a revolving carousel, which to me describes the film very well. It’s larger-than life, wild, dizzy, colourful and vulgar, and goes round in circles – for a very long time. Although Fear and Loathing is rich with ideas, and boldly confronts, it reeks of self-indulgence, contrivance and effects for effects’ sake. Johnny Depp has moments of distinction, but his performance is exactly that – a performance - that irritates with its almost clown-like mannered mannerisms. But that’s not to say it’s downhill all the way. There are moments of bizarre madness, and the hypnotic wildness of characters, mood and spirit stays remains long after the film has ended. And the soundtrack kicks along. In a role that is poles apart from his bohemian lover in Excess Baggage, Del Toro gives a compelling performance –riveting, fascinating and repulsive all at once. Love it or loathe it, Fear and Loathing is a lewd trip that is like being put in a blender on high."
Louise Keller

" One can imagine the attraction of this project to idiosyncratic film maker Terry Gilliam, this post-sixties diatribe on a drug-infested generation. The film is a bold attempt to capture the ramblings of a writer caught up in a blurry haze, but the trouble is, the film never really gets off the ground, and is repetitious, dull and one that has only the appearance of complexity. It's an aimless and plodding piece, much like the verbal ramblings of its literary creation, and the film is intensely pretentious, far too clever for its own good. Apart from a haphazardly structured screenplay, the film's obvious weakness lies in its central performances. It's been many years since the American cinema has been bombarded by two of the most consistently irritating performances that one gets from stars Depp and Del Toro. The former can be subtle and interesting to watch on screen, but here, one is conscious of how mannered and one-note he is in his portrayal of the drugged out journalist, while his onscreen partner is only slightly more coherent than usual. At the same time, the characters, who do little but wallow in this grotesque haze, seem unintentional caricatures of the post-beat generation that permeated American society in the late sixties. Fear and Loathing is a film that one can certainly admire on a technical level, such as the beautiful cinematography of Italian DOP Nicola Pecorini, and the pulsating, evocative soundtrack of the period. But while Gilliam remains one of America's most audacious artists, his latest film is a meandering bore, an ugly commentary on a period and philosophy that has been explored with a greater degree of intelligence than in this loathsome film. Mind you, if one were to see it stoned, maybe its effect might be as colourful as some of its images."
Paul Fischer

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Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 3
Mixed: 0

"Fear and Loathing is a lewd trip that is like being put in a blender on high."
Louise Keller

"A handful of starkly funny moments and endless colour and movement don’t quite make up for what is a rough ride over indulgent territory"
Andrew L. Urban

"An ugly commentary on a period and philosophy that has been explored with a greater degree of intelligence than in this loathsome film"
Paul Fischer


CAST: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Craig Bierko, Ellen Barkin, Gary Busey, Cameron Diaz, Flea, Mark Harmon, Katherine Helmond, Michael Jeter, Penn Jillette, Lyle Lovett, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Harry Dean Stanton, Tim Thomerson

PRODUCERS: Laila Nabulsi, Patrick Cassavetti, Stephen Nemeth

DIRECTOR: Terry Gilliam

SCRIPT: Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni, Tod Davies, Alex Cox (based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson)


EDITOR: Lesley Walker


RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes



A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney.

Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.

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