Wednesday, 17 March 2010

I Think I'm Getting The Fear.

Oh, to be inside Terry Gilliam's head. Actually, scratch that. I think it would probably be terrifying. So, oh to be in Hunter S Thompson's head. Wait, no, scratch that too. God knows what state it's in these days.

Obviously, the film where these two crazy minds converge is 1998s Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, a awe-inspiring trip into autobiographical roots exploring an absolutely enormous amount of drugs in the grotesque haven of Las Vegas. Johnny Depp plays Raoul Duke, the Thompson character, with Benicio Del Toro playing his attorney sidekick Dr Gonzo, based on Oscar Zeta Acosta, Thomspon's attorney at the time. The two power into LV with a boot full of everything and anything you can imagine, scaring young hitchhiker Tobey Maguire with visions of bats and incidents with a handgun, before landing to cover a race of some kind for Sports Illustrated, which ended up being part of a much larger work for Rolling Stone. Whilst in the gambling mecca they also find themselves covering a District Attorney's conference - just what you need when you're popping that much shit. The descent into the madness of their drugfuelled hysteria and crazed delusions is mindboggling in its scope and depth. The sheer magnitude of the lunacy of the picture lends immense credence to the reality of the situation the two created for themselves. It goes so far past believable it crosses back into the realm of possibility simply because something that far gone can only come from a place of truth.

Gilliam has a very singular vision and style to his films. They basically look like the work of a lunatic, someone probably dropping as much acid as those crazy kids on their Las Vegas roadtrip. Visually exciting and arresting, he lets the performances from his leads drift into absolute anarchy, ramping up the histrionics to eleven and keeping them there for the entire show. Depp's mania is intense in a way rarely seen, and never kept up for such an extended period. His eyes, big to begin with, look set to take over his face - an effects shot that would have looked particularly at home in Fear And Loathing. Del Toro continues on his quest during the late 1990s to show that he is a force to be reckoned with in showbusiness, culminating in his Oscar a couple of years later for Traffic. Ellen Barkin, Christina Ricci and even Cameron Diaz pop up to show their support for these characters so immersed in the darkest recesses of their minds that they barely even register their own presence, let alone these smaller characters.

The continuous repetition of the drug-addled state Duke and Gonzo threatens to become too much to bear, to become monotonous and over-the-top, but manages to just keep itself together by sheer force of will and the cinematic presence of the charismatic leads. A great combination that makes for one of the scarier films you'll probably see in your time. 4 stars.

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