Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Makes even more a reason as to why I should go to Vegas. Hookers are everywhere!

Nicolas Cage stars as a suicidal alcoholic who has ended his personal and professional life to drink himself to death in Las Vegas. While there, he forms a relationship with a hardened prostitute, played by Elisabeth Shue.

When it comes to depressing films, this one takes the cake. However, depressing isn’t so bad when it comes to this film.

Director Mike Figgis did a near-perfect job here with telling this story in a straight way, with still adding enough style of his own to it without being too artsy fartsy with it. Figgis uses a super 16 mm film instead of a 35 mm film and it works so well because it shows the sleazy underground of Las Vegas and the scenes he films on the streets of Vegas just loom so perfect with all the beautiful colors everywhere and the whole area surrounding the story.

The one real attribute to this film that works so well is the story itself which will make more people involved than they’d like to think. The story is real simple and it shows how these were before they met each other, their problems with life, and how they live their lives, then when they meet it is really a beautiful thing. Figgis works against the usual cliches of a romance story and shows two troubled lives coming together and forming a very troubled but loving romance that isn’t about changing one another, it’s more about how they need each other’s companionship. It’s the dark side of love, but in a way, it’s love and still beautiful.

Many people will actually complain about how it’s also very dark and depressing but I still actually found it a bit up-beat and compelling to the point of where I cared what happened to these two people. The film pulls no punches away when it comes to showing alcoholism for what it is, sex, and a lot of violence that gets very gruesome and actually pretty disturbing as well but I still felt involved with this story and just how beautiful and unusual this romance really was.

My only problem with this film is that the plot doesn’t really go anywhere. This didn’t bother me in this film as much as it would have in another one, because I had more distractions here to keep me away from the non-moving plot, but I still was a little annoyed that this plot didn’t really do much except linger around their love. But what a love it truly is.

I have always stood behind Nicolas Cage in everything that he does and it’s just amazing to be able to watch him in his only Oscar-winning performance, and what a performance it truly is. Cage is perfect as Ben Sanderson, the unapologetic drunk that is hammered throughout the whole film but you still feel something for this guy. Ben is a sad character but at the same time he has this endearing sweetness about him that you can sort of actually stand behind and wish for everything wrong with him, to eventually get better. Cage plays Ben so well because he channels all the craziness that this character has and all of the sadness that lies behind all of the drinking he does day-after-day. A great performance from a great actor and I’m so glad that he got the Oscar for this.

Elisabeth Shue is also amazing here as Sera, the whore with a heart of gold, and as cliche as that sounds, I can assure you it’s not at all. Shue seems so natural in this film because she is very sexy and bad when she needs to be but she has that sadness to her character as well that shows she needs somebody in her life, as much as he does as well.

Their chemistry is perfect together and how they are with each other is something that’s almost in a way a bit heart-breaking because you know how great of a couple they could be, they just have so many problems in their lives. These two seem so natural and comfortable with one another that I believed just about everything that happened to them.

Consensus: The plot may not go anywhere, but Leaving Las Vegas is a perfectly performed, and well-directed romance that shows two very messed up people, who need each other more than anything but will never change each other and that’s what a beautiful love story is all about.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!


  1. I didn’t watch this one because I didn’t want to wait through a whole movie for Cage to drink himself to death. Fortunately for us Cage lovers, after he finally does do himself in, he comes right back from Hell in Drive Angry. Yay.

    Meanwhile E. Shue leaves Vegas, goes right over to Lake Havasu, and pins on a badge to deal with the rabid piranhas. Yay.

  2. Cage’s career defining performance. I don’t care what he has done since, this performance makes up for it.

    And as someone who lives just a bit north of Vegas I’m glad Figgis captured what Vegas actually looks like. Not the glitzy “Vacation Movie Vegas”.

    • I hear ya! After seeing this I realized why Nic Cage deserves more respect and why Vegas just isn’t as beautiful as it’s made out to be.

  3. The scene where Sera gives Ben the flask is the best scene of Cage’s career. He almost deserves a career pass for this performance. Almost.

    And although Susan Sarandon is great in Dead Man Walking, Shue should’ve won the Oscar over her.

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