Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas follows journalist Raoul Duke and his lawyer Dr. Gonzo on a drug induced journey through Las Vegas. Duke and Gonzo are in town in order to cover the Mint 400 race, but that story gets lost along the way awfully fast. The film instead focuses on the pairs hallucinogenic outings in every Sin City. The pair’s adventures (or misadventures) can either have you in stitches or cringing at the strange, uncomfortable situations the two characters get themselves in. What’s more terrifying is it’s based on a true story.
The acting is top notch as Johnny Depp puts in a memorable performance as Raoul Duke (alter ego of Hunter S. Thompson), a journalist who seems to pass off his duties for any drug that’s put in front of him. Del Toro also shines as the aloof and insane Dr. Gonzo. Both making the audience laugh at their antics and then taking a turn and terrifying them.
The Mise en Scene is evident throughout this picture as Terry Gilliam is never far from outrageous sets, characters, and stories. In Fear and Loathing…Gilliam injects the audience into a drug addled mind. The world spins, shakes, vibrates, and stretches without warning. Nothing is what it seems as Duke looks at the receptionist, looks away, and turns back to see her face stretched out beyond recognition. The hallucinations of lizard people, midgets, and giants add to the disoriented feel of the film and almost make the setting feel as if it were a character. In the rare instances that the characters aren’t high on something the movie has a steady, stiff feel. A scene where both Duke and Gonzo are in a diner almost feels unsettling because the camera isn’t jerking around. Gilliam effectively uses Mise en Scene to make the film a more enjoyable one and takes something that could have been a standard film to something special.