It seems like Todd Phillips must really like some Hunter S. Thompson himself.
Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his Samoan lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro), go on a three-day romp from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Motoring across the Mojave Desert on the way to Sin City, Duke and his purple haze passenger ingest a cornucopia of drugs ranging from acid to ether.
After seeing ‘The Rum Diary‘ for the bore that it was, I realized that I needed to see the one and only Depp and Thompson connection that everybody’s been talking about for so long. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.
I haven’t really been all that familiar with a lot of Hunter S. Thompson‘s stuff but I can say that from what I know and hear, his shit is really crazy and out-of-this-world. This film is really freakin’ weird and it’s all about the insanely-real, and drug-influenced nightmares that go through this guy’s head when he’s taking LSD, coke, and some other crazy stuff that I didn’t even know existed. The whole film feels like a pretty long acid trip, which is much thanks to director Terry Gilliam.
Gilliam is great at these very eccentric and trippy set pieces that really get inside of your head and wonder just if what you are looking at is real, or all just a dream/imagination. Gilliam makes from what I hear pretty unfilmable stuff, and makes it damn realistic but not without making a lot of these drug-induced nightmares very funny and just very crazy to watch. Gilliam was the perfect choice for this type of film and even though this definitely isn’t the type of film that will make you wanna do some drugs, there is still a lot here that shows what it’s like to be on drugs and just how effed up your perception of reality can actually be.
The problem I think this film has is that a lot of the tone feels a bit uneven. Everything starts off all hilarious and very funny, without any type of real judgment on these dudes and all of the shameful things they do when they are completely drugged up, but that all starts to go away by the end of the film and that’s when it gets pretty dark. It blends right into this depressing kind of a film that doesn’t try to throw any messages about how “drugs are bad” at you, but to me, this still seemed a bit weird considering I spent the whole time just practically laughing at all these dudes.
I also feel like the film is a little too long and some scenes could have definitely been cut out, even though it seems like they were just going along with the material. The whole angle with the little, church girl seemed random and unneeded, and the diner scene where Gonzo totally gets big and nasty seemed very out-of-place for a film like this. It was a little too serious, a little too dark, and a little too sad to be placed in a movie where two guys are just tripped out the whole entire time.
Despite those little problems though, I still had a blast with this film, mainly because of the cast. Johnny Depp is the freakin’ man and totally crazy as Raoul Duke. Depp, as we all know, is perfect at playing these eccentric and cartoonish characters, and what he does here not only made me laugh but just watch his whole performance with happiness knowing just how great he really is with these sort of characters. Benicio del Toro is also totally convincing and crazy too as Dr. Gonzo. They are both great together and it’s funny how two completely different actors with two different styles, can come together on a film and just make everything seem like their having a great time with their roles.
Let me also not forget to mention that there are also tons and tons of cameos from a bunch of A-listers and random celebrities such as Ellen Barkin, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Flea, Lyle Lovett, Cameron Diaz, and even the man himself, Hunter S. Thompson. Oh and then there’s also Garey Busey, but he’s barely ever hard to miss in any film.
Consensus: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has its fair share of being too long and too uneven, but at other times, still has a direction from Gilliam that is beautifully trippy and inspired, and the cast just makes this whole bizarr-o film seem real without getting too serious.
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As a pirate, and now as a journalist. I’m starting to think that Johnny Depp the human may just like rum.
Eager to flee his humdrum life in 1950s New York, booze-loving journalist Paul (Johnny Depp) moves to Puerto Rico and begins writing for a local rag, but his life becomes unhinged when he falls for a gorgeous woman (Amber Heard) and clashes with her shifty fiancé (Aaron Eckhart).
Even though I have never seen ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas‘, I have heard nothing but good and crazy things which is why I was kind of anticipating seeing a film with Depp playing another Hunter S. Thompson character. However, I think I need to check out Fear and Loathing instead.
Director Bruce Robinson does his best to make this adaptation at least mildly amusing but just can’t do too much in the end. There are moments of humor that kept me laughing, and other parts where I like how they down-played all of the humor but the problem with this film is that the drama kicks in and it’s just so dry and boring that the film almost seems a bit uneven. Nothing really happens the whole time, or at least that’s what it seems like and although I was watching I still had no idea where this film was trying to go, let alone actually say.
My real problem with this film is that nothing ever really felt at stake and instead of wondering just where this story was going to go in a suspenseful kind of way, I tried to understand just why the hell this film was meandering. If Depp’s character, Paul joins these bad-guys and practically sells his soul to the devil, then something not too good will happen. That not too good thing never popped up once and I never even cared if he joined them or not. What was even more annoying was how the film had these little constant bits of energy that seemed like a total amount of fun, but then they would get knocked down by some real dry drama or moments of nothing really happening to the point of where I actually heard a yawn.
Remember that awesome, kick-ass trailer? Yeah, I did too, and I felt cheated when I found out that this was just a lazy attempt at trying to re-create the craziness that I hear Fear and Loathing did.There’s probably one scene where there are drugs taken and probably the funniest and most memorable of the whole film, and I never quite understood why the film didn’t keep on going for that constantly weird and crazy vibe that it could have easily benefited from.
Although, I may knock on this film a whole bunch I still did have some fun with this film and that’s probably because the beautiful sights of this film. The film takes place in 1960′s Puerto Rico and it really feels like a love-letter to it with all of the sun-lights, wide-open beaches, and ridiculously sexy mama citas that were all over the place. Hell, even the poor and little under-belly of Puerto Rico looked nice and that seems really really hard to do. If only the beauty of the cinematography could have got translated to some of its direction and writing.
At the beginning of the film, I thought Paul Kemp was going to be an incredibly quirky and funny dude but after the opening scene, Johnny Depp plays Kemp fairly low-key, which will probably disappoint a lot of people. He’s more of the silent observer in this film and doesn’t drink as much rum as the title and cool poster would have you think at first. This isn’t a bad performance by any means, but it’s fairly just disappointing since I would have liked to see him get a little zanier and a lot more fun to watch.
I’m also a little bothered at the fact that Depp is playing a dude that’s just starting out in his career as a journalist, when in reality, Depp is 48. Yes, I know it seems totally insane that Captain Jack Sparrow is old enough to be a 21st Century pop-pop and it gets even weirder when he starts this romance with Amber Heard’s character, who is about 25 herself. Maybe I was the only one who was a tad bothered by this but he seems to be getting too old for some of these roles and I think it may be time for roles that suit him a lot better, whatever they may be.
Speaking of Amber Heard, she’s pretty disappointing here as Chenault although she uses her sexiness to her advantage. She’s been so much better in a lot of other films and it’s a real shame when the film sort of totally gets rid of her by the last act. Aaron Eckhart plays her boyfriend, Sanderson, and is a total and complete disappointment in this film because he just a one-note character the whole time, which takes a lot more momentum out of this film. Giovanni Ribisi plays a drunken dude named Moburg and is a lot of fun on-screen, even though his character seems totally random considering the tone of this film; Richard Jenkins is a lot of fun to watch as Paul’s editor-in-chief and gives a surprisingly smart speech on Puerto Rico that was one of the few moments that actually interested me; and Michael Rispoli plays Paul’s new best-buddy, Sala, and really keeps the moments he and Depp have on-screen, some of the best and funniest moments of this film.
Consensus: The Rum Diary has its moments where it can be fun, beautiful to look at, and have feature some very good performances from the whole cast but has an uneven tone that sort of meanders over its whole 2-hour time-limit and feels like a film that could have been so much better, if it had so much more rum-drinking that the previews and poster were suggesting.