{2jtab: Movie Review}

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - blu-ray review


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4 stars

They call it the savage journey into the heart of the American Dream.  Some call it America’s Season in Hell.  For Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the true Lost Weekend of writers, scoundrels, gypsies, and thieves.  Directed by visionary filmmaker Terry Gilliam, the long-winded movie – the one critics said could never be adapted faithfully – is a drug-riddled escapade of everything your mother said would probably kill you or make you wish you were dead.  If that isn’t a picture perfect tagline for the real America, well, I don’t know what is.  Even if the pacing is a bit off in its 117 minute running time, Gilliam has the heart and intent of Thompson’s drug-fueled prose fully intact and even injects a bit of Fellini’s carnival-like reality into a motion picture that – at least as written - shouldn’t work as well as it does.

Pushing their limits as far as they can, a freelance journalist named Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his lawyer friend Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) decide to cover a desert motorcycle race in Las Vegas circa 1971.  Their true purpose is to cover the bold and dangerous America that surrounds them; the one real magazines ignore; the one pushed to the brink with addiction.  Of course those drugs get in the way of the actual race and the proceeding assignment – a police convention – is derailed by the acquisition of an underage prostitute (Christina Ricci) and their drinking.  Even sober, these two have a keen eye for the absurd and the ridiculous surrounding them.  Their experiences are the beginning and the end of an era for American History, yet all is not what it seems when traveling through Bat Country.

With fantastic cameos from Tobey Maguire, Cameron Diaz, Ellen Barkin, Gary Busey, Harry Dean Stanton, Penn Jillette, Mark Harmon, Michael Jeter, Craig Bierko and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (the film) is also an encapsulation of America’s acting talent offerings circa 1998.  Upon its initial release, the film was unfairly compared to Trainspotting by those who had never read the book it is based upon and, ultimately, slaughtered by critics.  Now, Criterion is presenting a stunning transfer for new fans – freed by the success of Trainspotting – to sample, enjoy, and/or rebuke.

Depp’s unconventional take on Thomson’s alter-ego is an impressive tour-de-force of existentialism.  It perfectly matches Gilliam’s warped sensibilities behind the camera.  Unwavering and somehow charming, Depp takes the brute journalist and retains his claws while presenting him with an astounding sense of the man and his mannerisms and, believe it or not, a bit of likeability.  With lines like “Ether is the perfect drug for Las Vegas”, the movie is highly quotable and gives each viewing (because, let’s face it, this is a film you cannot watch once) a sense of purpose.

Brutally honest and wickedly surreal in form and function, Gilliam’s carnival take on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas isn’t for everyone, but the true believers have the perfect movie to delight in and unflinchingly celebrate.


{2jtab: Film Details}

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - blu-ray reviewMPAA Rating: R for pervasive extreme drug use and related bizarre behavior, strong language, and brief nudity.
Director: Terry Gilliam
: Terry Gilliam
Johnny Depp; Benicio del Toro; Ellen Barkin, Tobey Maguire; Gary Busey; Christina Ricci
: Drama | Adventure | Fantasy
Four Days, Three nights, Two Convertibles, One City.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You drive. You drive. I think there's something wrong with me."
Universal Pictures
Theatrical Release Date:
May 22, 1998
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 10, 2011

Synopsis: Sportswriter Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his corpulent Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) head for Las Vegas with a load of mind-bending pharmaceuticals and herbal remedies - on a savage journey to the heart of the American Dream.

Duke may call it an assignment. Gonzo may believe it's a sacred mission to protect his client. Whatever "it" is, it's moving, and fast.


{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - blu-ray review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

5 Stars

Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - May 10, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS 5.1
50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); BD-Live; D-Box
Playback: Region-free

Criterion’s 1080p transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and, with its rich visuals, is an engaging experience in HD.  Originally released on BR by Universal, Criterion’s transfer has a more natural hue to its colors and a healthy balance to its overall look.  The original has been cleaned up and is free of dust and scratch issues.  The backgrounds have been fully restored by Cristerion, too.  With two audio tracks provided, an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Criterion has put together a sincere release of a cult classic.



  • Let the fun begin.  There are no less than three commentaries for the movie.  The first commentary is Terry Gilliam on his own.  The second commentary, provided by Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro and producer Laila Nabulsi, is the most engaging.  And the third, provided by Hunter S. Thompson and his assistant Anita Baymont, is fun, but not always clear.

Special Features:

Along with a 77-page booklet with an essay by critic J. Hoberman, Criterion has packed this Blu-ray release to the gills with quality material.  Complete with a video segment where Depp reads the correspondence back and forth between himself and Thompson, the disc comes loaded with behind-the-scenes footage about the movie and the book.  This disc comes highly recommended!

  • The Film
  • Three Deleted Scenes
  • The Mint 400 (2 min)
  • The Da From Ga (6 min)
  • The Hardware Barn (4 min)
  • Storyboards
  • Production Designs
  • Stills Gallery
  • Letters courtesy of Johnny Depp and Hunter S. Thompson. (15 min)
  • Hunter Goes to Hollywood (11 min)
  • "Not the Screenplay" (18 min)
  • "A Dress Pattern" (2 min)
  • Trailers & TV Spots
  • The Source
  • Oscar Zeta Acosta: Dr. Gonzo Photo Essay
  • The Revolt of the Cockroach People (30 min)
  • Thompson on Acosta (8 min)
  • Ralph Steadman Art Gallery
  • "Breakdown on Paradise Boulevard" (8 min)
  • Fear and Loathing on the Road to Hollywood 1978 (51 min)

{2jtab: Trailer}