Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

I always had reservations about Hunter S. Thompson for some reason, which weren’t really dispelled when I attended a Mu-Meson Archives event a few years ago after Thompson’s death; they showed two documentaries, both of which are among the special features in the Criterion edition of Fear etc (although Breakfast With Hunter is only excerpted on same), and between them they charted something kind of sad… in 1978 you had Thompson talking to the BBC about Raoul Duke being this fictionalised alter ego, and then in 2003 you had him, well, kind of being that fictionalised alter ego, as if he’d decided people kept expecting him to be this fictional character so he may as well live up to their expectations. Somehow I’ve never been able to find him that interesting, and that’s probably why I’ve never really got on with his work: because it’s all about him by definition. I actually never finished the book, and to be honest I couldn’t finish the film either, got about 45 minutes in and decided I was too bored to continue; a shame, cos I was hoping the film might click for me where the book didn’t. I’ll concede that Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke is a pretty damn good impersonation of Thompson (as I realised after watching the BBC piece again; the extent to which Benicio del Toro’s Dr Gonzo is a good impersonation or otherwise or Oscar Zeta-Acosta is another question, likely to remain unsolved), but there was something so basically unlikeable and uninteresting about the character that I couldn’t get involved, and like I said I switched off at about the 45-minute mark. I suppose there’s an interesting attempt to literalise some of the drug visions, but that’s about as far as it went for me.

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