Category Archives: Blast From The Past

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (1998)

TMG Scale 3.0    MPAA Rating: R
Starring Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro 
You may not  notice but also featured, Gary Busey, Mark Harmon, Cameron Diaz and Tobey Maguire

I accept the fact that this is sort of a cult film for the twenty something crowd. However, I cannot really explain it. My guess is these are kids who are fascinated by the drug culture of the 1960’s and 1970’s and feel they really missed something exciting and fun. Here is my advice on that notion: No you didn’t.  I only went back and watched this film after seeing Depp‘s escapade into the brain of Hunter S. Thompson in the 2011 release of The Rum Diary. Having a fun weekend in Las Vegas while doing some research for a book might be the basis for a good story. It simply failed here and resulted in a two hour prequel to Jackass: The Movie.

Depp plays Raoul Duke, a Thompson inspired eccentric and drug addict/writer who travels with his psychopathic lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (Del Toro)  to Las Vegas for psychedelic weekend.  That is pretty much it. Drive, take drugs, get weirded out, take more drugs and make Timothy Leary style observations on life and more drugs. LSD, mescal and ether are used gratuitously just to disconnect one thought from another. The film is all apparently based upon the book based upon two trips to Las Vegas that Thompson took with his real attorney in 1971.  I have little doubt the depictions in the book and the film are all pretty much accurate. The problem is I am asked to care in some way. I don’t.

The fact is TMG knew many of these whacked out druggies in the 60’s and 70’s. Modern culture and folklore now hold them up as enlightened prophets and fun guys. They were not. Most were just smelly, ugly and stupid and took countless drugs that made them do bizarre things that now seem like great adventure and entertaining to a generation of computer induced couch potatoes.

TMG never took any of the hallucinogenic drugs often politely referred to as “recreational drugs.”  I was around plenty of obnoxious people that did though. Most of them died very young. Little is funny or inspirational about their lives. Thompson sort of glorifies it. I can say that I know well what it is like to see pink elephants attack your bedroom on horseback though. My mom used to give me a drug called Darvon to take after college soccer games for pain. I think Darvon is now banned in 37 countries because it turned hordes of college students into smart ass movie critics. I am not real clear on that though. Beer goggles often dulled my perceptions in college.

I think most can easily skip this weird little film and try a heavy dose of Thompson on his more rational days in Puerto Rico with The Rum Diary.