Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Blu-ray (1998/2010)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro
Studio: Universal 61112001 [Release date: 2/2/10]
Video: Anamorphic/enhanced 2.35:1 for 16:9 color, 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French European DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian
Extras: Deleted Scenes; Spotlight On Location; D-Box Motion Enabled
Length: 1 hour, 59 minutes
Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas can’t be discussed without discussing drugs, not only because the film is about being severely inebriated/stoned, but because drug mythos clouds and obscures audience’s reactions to the film. Some audiences, who tend to be younger and more fascinated with the rebellious message of the picture, love it as though it were gospel; others, who tend to be older, can’t see past their distaste for the LSD-induced haze to see a difficult, interesting, and occasionally inspired movie. Universal’s Blu-ray release, more than 10 years after the original theatrical run (and since the death of Hunter Thompson), is a must for any thoughtful moviegoer who wants to see past both camps to experience this challenging piece for themselves. We covered the original DVD release here.
As a correspondent for an unnamed publication, Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his attorney Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) travel to Las Vegas to cover a massive motorcycle race, but instead run around Las Vegas, land of the American Dream, becoming progressively more intoxicated on stronger and stronger drugs. They have multiple run ins with the police, including infiltrating a narcotics enforcement convention, and destroy multiple hotel rooms while Duke ruminates on how the hope he once felt for change in the world is disintegrating.
The Blu-ray treatment suits Fear And Loathing, because it allows the viewer to take in director Terry Gilliam’s brilliant hallucination scenes with all the overwhelming power they would have had in the theater, in the comfort of their own home. Gilliam eschews both the sixties clichés of bizarre light projection and tie-die and the current fetish for CGI, choosing instead to use elaborate sets plus his trademark touch for bizarre costumes and puppets. One particular scene, in which Dr. Gonzo transforms into a wolf-like demon in Duke’s mind just might be the greatest hallucination scene of the nineties. [The lizards in the Las Vegas lounge are also pretty good…Ed.]
Eleven years after the fact, some of the weaknesses of the film are also apparent. The performance of the main star, Johnny Depp, eclipses with its cartoonish nature much of the more insightful points his character makes. Depp mugs for the camera, squeals, and walks bow-legged, acting more like a silent-era comedian than Depp’s real-life friend Hunter S. Thompson, upon whom his character and the picture is based. The broad humor of his acting makes the quieter scenes in which we watch Duke at the typewriter discussing his feelings, seem like they’re from another unmade movie – one this critic would’ve liked to have seen.
Despite some of its excesses, Fear And Loathing has aged quite well, remaining an entertaining and outrageous movie with more thought-provoking moments for the attentive viewer. The special features on this set are unfortunately rather minimal, especially when some commentary or featurette involving director Terry Gilliam is a must for his die-hard fans. Nevertheless, this Blu-ray release will be a worthwhile addition to the collection of any film fan, whether they identify with its characters or not.
– Ethan Krow