Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Friday, September 12 - Saturday, September 13, 2014

DCP projection

“A slapstick fever dream both funny and poignant, as unencumbered in its performances as it is uncompromising in its worldview.

“Like a belated sequel to Easy Rider, FEAR AND LOATHING opens with two guys in Hawaiian shirts and a red convertible bombing, born to be wild, toward Nevada’s neon Sodom. ‘We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold’ is the line with which both book and movie begin (the gonzo equivalent of ‘Call me Ishmael’). The dope-addled search for America will be three days in Vegas, and a twilight arrival in Glitter Gulch occasions the definitive LSD sequence in Hollywood movies—a farrago of glacially delayed responses, free-floating incomprehension, inadvertent word repetitions, and minor visual distortions blossoming into full-fledged hallucinations. Gilliam gleefully stages Thompson’s panicky experience of the hotel cocktail lounge—’We’re right in the middle of a fucking reptile zoo! And some­body’s giving booze to these goddamn things!’—adding to the comedy by flipping in and out of his hero’s drastically expanded consciousness…

“Johnny Depp, here given the Thompson alias Raoul Duke, has the attitude as well as the look—­receding hairline, sporty pith helmet, orange aviator shades, jaunty cigarette holder. His is the detached cool of a nineteenth-century explorer or a 1920s bon vivant. Depp, no less than Thompson, is a southern gentleman—and his stoned pratfalls and coke-snort double takes notwithstanding, he’s also an exemplary straight man. As his volatile sidekick, Dr. Gonzo, Benicio Del Toro—no less ambitiously unpredictable in his career choices than Depp—is given ample room to pulverize the screen.

“Depp proves himself a master of moving as though someone has just pulled the plug on his power source, but the movie’s edge is provided by Del Toro, who gained forty pounds for the part and honed a paranoid glare sharper than the hunting knife he regularly brandishes. From the moment he begins braying ‘One Toke over the Line’ to the scene he plays opposite hard-boiled waitress Ellen Barkin in an exaggeratedly realistic North Las Vegas diner, Del Toro is a force of nature. Depp thinks, Del Toro acts: it’s he who gets to puke out a car window at a parallel vehicle filled with uptight squares, who gets to woo catatonic runaway Christina Ricci, and gets to woof TV reporter Cameron Diaz in a scene of claustrophobic elevator terror. (In another of the film’s cameos, a nearly unrecognizable Tobey Maguire appears as the stupefied hippie hitchhiker picked up and traumatized by Duke and Gonzo.)…

“Given that the sixties remain the most maligned and oversold decade of the American century, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is clearly not for every­one. (‘If you got it then, you’ll get it now’ is how Newsday critic John Anderson began his review.) At once prestigious literary adaptation and slap­stick buddy flick, this is some­­thing like Fellini Cheech and Chong—this is a lowbrow art film, an egghead monster movie, a gross-out trip to the lost continent of Mu, a hilarious paean to reckless indulgence, and perhaps the most widely released midnight movie ever made.” – J. Hoberman

  • Country USA
  • Rating R
  • Year 1998
  • Running Time 120 minutes
  • Director Terry Gilliam

IFC Center does not generally provide advisories about subject matter or potentially triggering content in films, as sensitivities vary from person to person. In addition to the synopses, trailers and other links on our website, further information about content and age-appropriateness for specific films can be found on Common Sense Media, IMDb and DoesTheDogDie.com as well as through general internet searches.