[Screen It]


(1998) (Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Extreme Moderate Extreme Mild Moderate
Moderate None Minor None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Moderate Extreme None Moderate Mild

Drama: A journalist and his lawyer travel to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race, but spend most of their time consuming conspicuous amounts of drugs and trashing their hotel rooms.
Raoul Duke (JOHNNY DEPP) is an early 1970's journalist who's been sent to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race. Accompanied by his disheveled lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (BENICIO DEL TORO), the two arrive in town already high and hallucinating from the many drugs they've already consumed. 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). Supposedly rebelling against the Nixon era, the two continue to get high, hallucinate, and trash more hotel rooms.
If they're fans of either Depp or Del Toro they might. Most kids won't know about Hunter S. Thompson's quarter century old novel, but the counter culture, heavy drug use behavior may draw some.
For pervasive extreme drug use and related bizarre behavior, strong language, and brief nudity.
Considering that the two main characters (played by JOHNNY DEPP and BENICIO DEL TORO) are hard core drug addicts who trash hotel rooms, don't pay their bills, etc..., it's doubtful any parent would consider them as good role models.


OUR TAKE: 1 out of 10
Talk about your bad trips. No, I'm not referring to the hallucinogenic effects suffered by the two drug-addicted protagonists in this cinematic adaption of Hunter S. Thompson's novel, "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas," although some of them are quite bad. Instead, I'm describing your experience if you set off to the theater to see this film. Featuring one-dimensional characters, essentially no plot, and a mind numbing array of scenes involving drug use that never amount to anything, this is a really bad film.

All of which is quite surprising considering that accomplished director and cinematic visionary, Terry Gilliam is at the helm. The former Monty Python member, who has directed some of the more fascinating films of the past two decades ("Brazil," "The Fisher King," "12 Monkeys), seems a perfect match for Thompson's material -- at least in theory.

Gilliam's films certainly have never fallen into the mainstream, and his subject matter often concerns distraught or deranged characters living in a nightmarish, surreal world. Thompson's seminal novel, first published in the early 1970's, features such characters living in exactly that type of world. Unfortunately, Gilliam didn't heed the advice and belief of so many before him that this story was "unfilmable." While that's something of a misnomer since he did get it on celluloid, the point was that it wouldn't make for a very good film. Guess what? Those doubters were exactly right.

While I'll admit that I've never read the novel, it certainly seems more suited for one's own imagination instead of the cinematic treatment. Since so much takes place inside the main character's head (thoughts, fears, and, of course, hallucinations), representing that on screen would appear to be a formidable, if not impossible challenge.

Although Gilliam imaginatively presents the hallucinations, they ultimately never amount to anything. While TV's "Seinfeld" could get away with doing a show about "nothing," the fact that nothing happens here severely derails the film. Other than the guys doing drugs, hallucinating, and trashing their hotel rooms, nothing else happens and that makes for one long, boring experience in a darkened theater.

At first, though, it seems as if the film might be somewhat fun, in an offbeat, odd type of way. Utilizing weird camera angles, sped up film, and some wild visual effects, Gilliam does a decent job displaying what these drugged up guys are experiencing. With a carpet pattern flowing up a man's legs and an adjacent wall, lounge lizards truly being just that (in this case, small dinosaurs that look like they came from the defunct TV show, ''Dinosaurs"), and Katherine Helmond's (TV's "Who's the Boss?") face getting the morphing treatment (an odd homage to the skin on her face being stretched in "Brazil"), the effects are quite startling. Yet one quickly realizes that they're never going to amount to anything and soon they're too obvious as standalone visual elements, and not as something helping to move the story forward.

The biggest problem is simply that there is no story. After the first hallucinatory moments you expect the plot to progress from there, but instead we simply get more of the same. The only change that occurs is that the two protagonists alternate between being the one with the steady hallucinations and the other suffering from those more associated with paranoia and delusion. A little of that goes a long way, but unfortunately, that's all this film has to offer.

Coupled with that is the equally deadly cinematic sin that the main characters are nothing more than one-dimensional drug addicts (compared to say, "Trainspotting" where at least the players were interesting). Since they're featured more like cartoon characters than real human beings, the audience has nearly no other reaction to them other than boredom or removed disgust.

We never feel sorry for Duke and Gonzo, or join in their revelry and rebellion (they may fear and hate what has become of society during the Nixon years, but we only get that from Gilliam's use of visuals or voice over narration, and not from the characters themselves). Unlike that other -- but much better -- film set on the strip featuring addicts of another kind, "Leaving Las Vegas," we could care less what happens to these guys and thus any audience involvement in the film is a completely moot point.

As the main character, Johnny Depp, who's been so good in his other films such as "Donnie Brasco" and "Ed Wood," falls flat here. Although he's been given the necessary props (a near permanent in the mouth cigarette holder and yellow tinted aviator glasses), is dressed like a perpetual tourist, and has a partially shaved head (all of which makes him look a bit like Elton John from the 70's -- without the flamboyant costumes), Depp can't do much with his character. Limited to physical ticks such as raising his eyebrows and muttering guttural "Hmm's" and "Huh's" and other such sounds when not reacting to the nonstop infusion of drugs, his character amounts to nothing more than a cartoon-like caricature.

Benicio Del Toro ("The Usual Suspects," "Basquiat") also looks the part -- reportedly gaining a great deal of weight for the role and growing his hair out into a tangled mess -- but his character is even less developed than Depp's. When not manically deranged from his steady use of drugs, all he gets to do is tell his friend, "As your attorney I advise you to..." in a repeated bit that's assumedly supposed to be funny, but is anything but.

Beyond those two, there's a plethora of cameo appearances by noted actors and musicians -- as if this were THE project to work on -- but most are so brief and likewise one-dimensional that they never add up to anything. Among those who momentarily make their way before the camera are Mark Harmon, Gary Busey, Cameron Diaz, Michael Jeter and Lyle Lovett. Slightly longer parts go to Ellen Barkin as a cafe waitress and Christina Ricci as a young religious girl, but like everything else in the film, they don't amount to much.

Featuring an excessive amount of voice over narration (the only desperate hope of telling the story), and many bits that are assumedly supposed to be funny, but don't even come close (the guys stumbling across the Vegas strip after losing control of most of their motor functions, Gonzo being afraid to step off a slow moving merry-go-round type restaurant, etc...), this is a disaster of a movie.

Overall, it's also a major disappointment for director Terry Gilliam. Having helmed some of the more imaginatively staged products of recent, many of which garnered multiple Oscar nominations, this feature is shockingly and quite surprisingly awful. Although occasionally featuring interesting visuals, they alone can't make a movie, and the lack of anything resembling a story or interesting characters hammers the final nails in this film's coffin.

If you groove on watching hallucinating drug addicts consuming a wide array of drugs, trashing rooms, and generally making fools of themselves, then you should head off right now to your local multiplex. You should be on the lookout, however, for this film will probably be passing you on its own quick trip to the video store where it might gain a small, cult following, but otherwise will vanish in a haze of obscurity. We give "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas" a marginal 1 out of 10.

Obviously, the material that will draw the most attention is the rampant drug use, and short of shooting up heroin, the two main characters seem to ingest most every other type of heavy drug available in the early seventies. The fact that they get away with taking all of the drugs and having the wild hallucinations, coupled with their trashing hotel rooms, skipping out without paying the bills, etc... without facing any serious repercussions may trouble many parents with impressionable children.

Beyond all of that, nearly everyone drinks and smokes throughout the film and profanity is extreme with a wide assortment of various expletives and phrases. There's some sexual talk and a few glimpses of nude magazine centerfolds (we see bare breasts), as well as some disturbing hallucinations (but we're expecting younger kids won't be seeing this, and older teens and adults should find them troubling but not scary). Although it's questionable how many kids will want to see this film, since many of the categories are full of objectionable material we strongly suggest that you read through the listings should you or someone in your home wish to see it.

  • To list individual occurrences of the two main characters doing various sorts of drugs would be redundant and take up too much space. Needless to say, both characters continuously indulge in smoking pot, snorting cocaine, taking acid (LSD) and mescaline, inhaling ether vapors, drinking some sort of adrenal gland derivative, and other sorts of drug use (along with beer and liquor in many scenes). Consequently they often hallucinate (and we see some of their "visions").
  • The guys also simultaneously drink and drive.
  • Many other minor and background characters also drink in the casinos and elsewhere.
  • We briefly see the results of a traffic accident where a body is covered with a sheet and blood has spread across the blacktop (and a decapitated head may be beside it, but that's not for certain - - it's all seen from a distance).
  • Gonzo has some sort of red abrasion or cut on his neck.
  • Duke imagines seeing a flood of red liquid -- blood, tomato juice, or some other substance -- covering a casino floor.
  • He then imagines seeing a group of dinosaur-like creatures eating a bowl of worms as well as them later being covered in blood as they feed on something on the casino floor.
  • We graphically see Gonzo vomiting in a toilet (and later see him do the same -- but not as graphically -- in other scenes).
  • We hear what sound like farting sounds from Gonzo while in a bathtub, and later straining sounds while he's in the bathroom. We also hear Duke urinating (but don't see anything).
  • Duke has a small stream of blood coming down from his ear.
  • Both of the main characters are drug addicts who trash their hotel rooms, skip out without paying their bills, and are disrespectful to nearly everyone they encounter (due to their continually drug induced states).
  • Duke throws some change onto the ground as his tip for a hotel worker.
  • Duke doesn't pull over when a patrolman signals for him to do so and states (in voice over) that it's better to make him chase you ("Make the bastard chase you. He will follow.").
  • Duke tells Gonzo (about Lucy) that they should keep her drugged up, and then take her down to the cops (at a convention) who would beat her and then "gang f*ck her" and that (Duke and Gonzo) could make a lot of money from that.
  • We learn that Gonzo gave young Lucy acid without her knowing what it was.
  • Duke takes drugs while "covering" an anti-drug convention.
  • Several scenes involving police officers/district attorneys make them look foolish.
  • The guys make some derogatory religious comments about Lucy, and one of them also comments to a group of people that they're the ones "who killed Jesus."
  • Gonzo gives a waitress a napkin on which he's written the question (about her), "Back door beauty?"
  • Duke hallucinates and sees Gonzo turning into a devil with slit-pupil eyes and hairy horns protruding from his head.
  • Some viewers may find the men's other hallucinations as disturbing, but they're not inherently scary.
  • Gonzo stabs his knife into a cafe table and then gets up and nearly confronts a waitress (who's now terrified), but nothing else happens.
  • Pistol: Carried by Gonzo and occasionally pointed by him or Duke at various people (Gonzo also tries shooting it into the air, but it's empty). Duke also indiscriminately fires the gun several times while in the desert.
  • Hunting knife: Carried by Gonzo and occasionally wildly swung around a room, jabbed into a table, or presented in a menacing fashion.
  • Military weapons (machine guns, tanks, explosives, etc...): Seen on TV in war and sci-fi movies.
  • Rifles: Shot by men at a gun club (shooting range).
  • Machine guns: One is mounted on the back of a jeep in one of Duke's hallucinations, and another is shot at a target in a carnival-like attraction (a play machine gun).
  • Phrases: "For f*ck's sakes," "Holy f*ck," "Sh*thead," "P*ckerhead," "Chicken sh*t," "Jack off" and "Screw" (sexual), "Tough t*tty," "Bastard," "Worthless bastard," "Scum sucker," "Whore" (toward a man), "Jack ass," "Jerk off" (adjective), "Scumbag," and "Faggot."
  • The fact that these guys do all of the drugs, trash their hotel rooms, don't pay their bills, drive while drinking and get away with all of that, may make such behavior look enticing (beyond the odd hallucinations, but they are only momentary in the overall scheme of the movie).
  • Sitting in a bathtub full of foul, dirty water, Gonzo wants Duke to toss their radio/tape player (that's powered by AC) into the tub with him. While Duke's still coherent enough not to do that, they do play around with the idea (and kids might get the wrong notion about that).
  • Duke doesn't pull over when a patrolman signals for him to do so and states (in voice over) that it's better to make him chase you ("Make the bastard chase you. He will follow.") and confuse him by turning on your turn signals.
  • Duke gives Gonzo "the finger."
  • The guys repeatedly strike a car they've rented with hammers.
  • Gonzo takes a swig from a bottle and then spits the liquor onto a nearby car (at the people inside).
  • A waitress spits in Gonzo's face after he offends her.
  • Gonzo cuts a telephone receiver from the base unit after a waitress says she's going to call the cops.
  • None.
  • A few scenes have just a minor bit of suspenseful music in them.
  • None.
  • At least 89 "f" words (2 used sexually, 2 used with "mother"), 39 "s" words, 2 slang terms using male genitals ("p*cker" and "c*cks*cker"), 2 slang terms for breasts (the "t" word), 9 hells, 4 asses (2 used with "hole"), 4 S.O.B.'s, 2 damns, and 41 uses of "G-damn," 11 uses each of "Jesus" and "Oh God," 4 uses of "Jesus Christ," 3 uses of "Oh my God," 2 uses each of "God Almighty," "Mother of God," "Sweet Jesus," and "God," and 1 use each of "Christ," "Holy Jesus" and "God forsaken" as exclamations.
  • We briefly see a centerfold on the wall, but the woman in the picture covers a breast with her hand.
  • We see some footage from Woodstock (or some similar event) and see just the tops of a bare chested woman's breasts.
  • We see another centerfold that does show a woman's bare breasts.
  • Some casino waitresses walk by in skimpy outfits that show part of their bare butts.
  • Duke tells Gonzo (both drugged up), "There's two women f*cking a polar bear" (obviously not true).
  • A patrolman asks Duke (after he's finally pulled off the road after being chased), "May I have a little kiss before you go? I'm a little lonely here." (Nothing happens)
  • Duke tells Gonzo (about Lucy) that they should keep her drugged up, and then take her down to the cops (at a convention) who would beat her and then "gang f*ck her" and that (Duke and Gonzo) could make a lot of money from that. Duke then tells Gonzo that he (Gonzo) could "penetrate every orifice in her little body" with his "throbbing member..."
  • In a 1950's like anti-drug propaganda film we hear the narrator mention that a drug addict's pants would be stained with semen for "constantly jacking off when he can't find a rape victim..."
  • Hallucinating, Duke sees a pair of fake looking breasts on Gonzo's back.
  • Gonzo gives a waitress a napkin on which he's written the question (about her), "Back door beauty?"
  • Duke smokes throughout the entire production, while Gonzo also smokes.
  • Many minor and background characters also smoke throughout the film.
  • None.
  • The fact that these guys get away with doing all of the heavy, mind-altering drugs, trashing their hotel rooms, and not paying their bills without any seemingly bad consequences.
  • The guys trash and damage many hotel rooms.
  • Gonzo briefly threatens a man with his hunting knife.
  • Instead of dropping a plugged in radio into the bathtub in which Gonzo is lying (at his request), Duke throws a piece of fruit that smacks Gonzo on his head. Gonzo then comes out of the bathroom and knocks things around. He also throws a chair at Duke and pulls out his knife, but doesn't come after his friend.
  • Duke aims a gun at a bellhop, but in more of a confused than threatening fashion.
  • Lucy, under the effects of acid, grabs Duke's leg and tries to bite him when he enters a hotel room.
  • In a 1950's like anti-drug propaganda film, we briefly see a man hit another man over the head.
  • The guys repeatedly strike a car they've rented with hammers.
  • We briefly see several men (possibly cops) kicking and hitting (with billy clubs) another person who's on the ground.
  • Gonzo cuts a telephone receiver from the base unit after a waitress says she's going to call the cops.

  • Reviewed May , 1998

    Other new and recent reviews include:

    [Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation] [Incredibles 2] [Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom] [Skyscraper] [Sorry to Bother You]

    Privacy Statement and Terms of Use and Disclaimer
    By entering this site you acknowledge to having read and agreed to the above conditions.

    All Rights Reserved,
    ©1996-2018 Screen It, Inc.