Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), directed by Terry Gilliam

This tracks the book more or less closely; it gets the "bad craziness" right. Hunter S. Thompson seems more political on the printed page: the Age of Nixon as incipient American fascism. Some bits are more elaborated than I remember: the people-to-lizards transformations and turning the hotel room into a swamp.

Performing his work requires an HST impersonation; Bill Murray did his version in Where the Buffalo Roam (1980). Johnny Depp does a remarkable physical performance, shaving most of his head. Perhaps unavoidably in a film treatment he is more articulate than HST in person.

Benicio del Toro has more flexibility as Dr Gonzo, since no one in the audience will remember the real Oscar "Zeta" Acosta, who vanished in Mexico shortly after the events shown here and is presumed dead.

A lot of cameo appearances by known stars, and a funny glimpse of the man himself.

1hr58m is plenty for this; after a while it is the same outrageousness over and over. The offenses against women (Christina Ricci, Ellen Barkin) drain a lot of the fun out of the project.

The enigmas of HST: can one use fantastical bombast to tell journalistic truths? The point of all the drugs is a self-destructive need to get messed up, right? He had no pretense of insight or enlightenment. An anti-guru? We might consider him a bad influence on impressionable admirers.

A box office failure, better liked on home video since.

Available on Blu-ray. My thumbnails are from the Universal disc; it is also available from Criterion. The Criterion has commentary tracks and more extras, but judging by the screen grabs at DVDBeaver, image quality is about the same.