Fear and Loathing is pretty much a perfect film. Not an enjoyable film or an easy film to watch, but perfect in that it does precisely the impossible thing it has set out to do: find a visual analogue for Hunter S. Thompson’s speed-spiked prose. (Really, you may wonder, why did Thompson even need a pharmacological boost — isn’t Vegas itself sensory overload enough?) Between director Terry Gilliam’s phantasmagoric imagination and Johnny Depp’s clipped chatter (as Thompson alter ego Raoul Duke), the film captures the all-American excess of Vegas as Thompson saw it, a place where cops and off-road racers and drug-addled journalists and lawyers rub shoulders, where the primitive reptilian brain behind our basest desires and impulses is undisguised. There’s an air of Nixonian paranoia, and not just because of all the drugs. Gilliam recognizes Thompson’s source novel for what it is: a eulogy for the 1960s, a demarcation of the moment when the era’s idealism curdled into cynicism.
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