Look At Our Facebook Page Look At Our Twitter Page Buy Our Books On Amazon Buy Our Books On Our Paypal Shop


Murder Slim Press's Reviews Murder Slim Press's Literary Film Reviews Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Gonzo Murder Slim's Reviews A to Z Murder Slim Press's Charles Bukowski and John Fante Reviews Murder Slim's Book Reviews Murder Slim Press's Outsiders Film Reviews Murder Slim's Crime and Sleaze Reviews Return to MurderSlim.com

I hadn't seen FEAR AND LOATHING before... and I actually watched its swanky Criterion edition just after watching GONZO, the documentary about Hunter S. Thompson's life.

FEAR AND LOATHING is enormous fun. It captures the energy of Thompson's work... with the ferocity, humour and lunacy that entails. Depp is very funny, capturing Thompson's speech and trademark movements and hunch over the keyboard. His role in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN is too silly, yet this one as Dr. Gonzo is pitched just right. Benecio Del Toro is also great in a potbellied, unsettling role as the dangerous nutjob Raoul.

A lot has been said about the drug-trip sections in the film... the bats in the initial scene, the lizards in the nightclub. But the "trippy" stuff fits well into the overall red-tinted atmosphere of the film, whereas the clumsy handling of similar stuff in TRAINSPOTTING stuck out like a fucking sore thumb. Maybe a terrible baby-dummy crawling across the ceiling is always going to look awful. But lizards in a nightclub could have looked bad, yet they don't in FEAR AND LOATHING. They DO look nightmarishly weird, which is something Terry Gilliam excels at.

But perhaps the surprising aspect of FEAR AND LOATHING is the serious stuff in the movie is wonderful. Yes, there are a lot of laughs, but the movie is much more than a comedy. The classic Thompson writing on the end of the 60s optimism is included in a touching scene when Johnny Depp achieves rare clarity amidst the cocktail of drugs: "And that, I think, was the handle - that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of old and evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high water-mark - that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back." FEAR AND LOATHING works because the serious stuff is just as good as the humour. That's precisely what THE RUM DIARY managed to fuck up... it overdid the humour and underdid the depth of emotion.

GONZO covers the same "high water-mark" speech, but through discussions about the first (never shot) movie adaption of Thompson's book. The director had explained to the real-life Thompson that he wanted to animate the sequence, with Hunter S. Thompson riding on a sea of bones. GONZO captures Thompson screaming at the guy, disgusted by what a hack director he was. Well, I figured he was a hack director. It turned out it was Alex Cox, director of the wonderful REPO MAN and WALKER. Poor old Alex Cox... whatever happened to him? Maybe this moment killed his spirit. But Thompson was right on this one. Going with Johnny Depp being contemplative and not riding on any bones was definitely the right choice.

GONZO is narrated by a very understated Depp, showing the guy that hopefully still lurks under his recent movie efforts. Depp always seemed so respectful of independent movies, starring in some great stuff like DEAD MAN in the 90s. ED WOOD was another great one, and SLEEPY HOLLOW was very entertaining.... perhaps the only two good Burton films. Depp then starred in more (bad) Burton movies, and some mainstream stuff. It seemed a waste of his ability to overact not underact, so it's great to see him return to a saner persona in GONZO.

All the interviews are pertinent and interesting. Bono from U2 luckily doesn't show up, which makes a refreshing change from documentaries about "outsider" authors and musicians (Bukowski's BORN INTO THIS being one). Ralph Steadman comes across particularly well, and we're treated to some shots of his excellent sketches. Steadman was probably the guy keeping Thompson just the right side of the rails... well, aside from the Ali-Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" that they failed to attend because Thompson fancied floating naked in a pool.

There's also a lot of good footage of Thompson, and the film isn't too congratulatory of him. They cover his writing blocks, and his love of guns, booze and parties with women. I didn't find the movie over-aggrandised him, and it acknowledges that he fell into a self-defeating world as a caricature of "Dr. Gonzo". His suicide is also well handled, with his son explaining that it was a strangely tender moment, while his ex-wife argues he should have hung around. He could have talked about Bush and shone a little light on the new regime. But, of course, he also would have still been suffering from crippling back pain. You don't blow your brains out without a lot of good reasons.

Like FEAR AND LOATHING, GONZO was fascinating and uplifting. It offered a lot to me as a fan of Thompson's work, but it should also offer different pleasures to people new to his work. The world of the outsider is often interesting, and it's the same pleasure found in the likes of GRIZZLY MAN, ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD, and YOU'RE GONNA MISS ME. It's largely unimportant whether you like the people involved in the story, because there's something engrossing about how they're so unconcerned with what they're SUPPOSED to do. Couple that with an insightful voiceover, and it leads to a great documentary.

Review by Steve Hussy