The original cowriter and director of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
was Alex Cox, whose earlier film Sid and Nancy
suggests that Cox could have been a perfect match in filming Hunter S. Thompson's psychotropic masterpiece of "gonzo" journalism. Unfortunately Cox departed due to the usual "creative differences," and this ill-fated adaptation was thrust upon Terry Gilliam, whose formidable gifts as a visionary filmmaker were squandered on the seemingly unfilmable elements of Thompson's ether-fogged narrative. The result is a one-joke movie without the joke--an endless series of repetitive scenes involving rampant substance abuse and the hallucinogenic fallout of a road trip that's run crazily out of control. Johnny Depp plays Thompson's alter ego, "gonzo" journalist Raoul Duke, and Benicio Del Toro is his sidekick and so-called lawyer Dr. Gonzo. During the course of a trip to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race, they ingest a veritable chemistry set of drugs, and Gilliam does his best to show us the hallucinatory state of their zonked-out minds. This allows for some dazzling imagery and the rampant humor of stumbling buffoons, and the mumbling performances of Depp and Del Toro wholeheartedly embrace the tripped-out, paranoid lunacy of Thompson's celebrated book. But over two hours of this insanity tends to grate on the nerves--like being the only sober guest at a party full of drunken idiots. So while Gilliam's film may achieve some modest cult status over the years, it's only because Fear and Loathing
is best enjoyed by those who are just as stoned as the characters in the movie. The DVD offers the film in its full 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. --Jeff Shannon
It is 1971, and journalist Raoul Duke barrels toward Las Vegas—accompanied by a trunkful of contraband and his unhinged Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo—to cover a motorcycle race. His cut-and-dried assignment quickly descends into a feverish psychedelic odyssey. Director Terry Gilliam (Time Bandits, Brazil) and an all-star cast headlined by Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands, Donnie Brasco) and Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, Che) show no mercy in adapting Hunter S. Thompson’s legendary dissection of the American way of life to the screen, creating a film both hilarious and savage.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • Digital transfer, approved by director Terry Gilliam, with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack and an optional 5.1 mix • Three audio commentaries: one with Gilliam, one with stars Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro and producer Laila Nabulsi, and one with author Hunter S. Thompson • Deleted scenes, with optional commentary by Gilliam • Selection of Thompson correspondence, read on camera by Depp • Hunter Goes to Hollywood, a short documentary by filmmaker Wayne Ewing • A look at the controversy over the screenwriting credit • Profile of Oscar Zeta Acosta, the inspiration for Dr. Gonzo • Collection of artwork by illustrator Ralph Steadman • Audio excerpt from the 1996 spoken-word CD Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, featuring filmmaker Jim Jarmusch and actor Maury Chaykin • Fear and Loathing on the Road to Hollywood, a 1978 BBC documentary with Thompson and Steadman • Storyboards, production designs, stills gallery, theatrical trailer, and TV spots • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic J. Hoberman and two pieces by Thompson