Hunter S. Thompson’s semi-autobiographical novel and essay on the emptiness of the American dream in post sixties Las Vegas is brought to life by Terry Gilliam in a way very few could’ve managed; his mixture of lurid visuals, surreal humour and celebration of the grotesque captures its spirit perfectly.
It’s long been one of my favourite books and this is exactly how I pictured it in my head as I read it. Johnny Depp nails Thompson and is pitch perfect as the drug-addled outsider who sees himself as an alien in his own country, providing some very insightful commentary on the America of those times. Benicio Del Toro is also fantastic as his Samoan sidekick and it’s hilarious to see the pair of them crashing through “polite society” without the slightest regard for acceptable, conventional behaviour. With cameos from the likes of Christina Ricci and Harry Dean Stanton, the cast is to die for and there are lots of funny lines and physical humour that’ll make anyone who has had one too many – of anything- laugh and cringe knowingly at the same time. Capping it off there’s also a superb soundtrack of the greatest music of that period.
Those looking for a coherent plot will be disappointed, but that’s the nature of the beast; deeply sick and occasionally hilarious, it’s America’s answer to Withnail & I.