Kentucky native brings forth bizarre comedy


Graphic by Rob Fischer

Alex Brinkhorst

Starring a Kentucky native and written by a Kentucky native, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a surreal trip in the desert and is a bizarre comedy that turns everyone’s head.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a 1998 cult comedy classic staring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro. The movie is adapted from the book that shares the same name written by gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and it is a decent rendition with many parts keeping true to the original story while removing parts that dragged on in the novel.

The story revolves around Raoul Duke, played by Depp and his friend and lawyer Dr. Gonzo, played by del Toro, and it surrounds their misadventures going to, in and leaving Las Vegas as Duke and Gonzo fail and run around Vegas. The pair use a cocktail of drugs and the movie features Duke’s constant train of thought narration, taken from the dialogue of the original book. Specifically, it features the opening line: “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”

The movie is not for everyone. It features heavy and semi realistic drug use. While not glamorizing the use of them entirely, to a degree, the characters aren’t shown as having many consequences of the use. Despite the bad trips and the insane situations, the two leave a path of destruction in the form of ruined hotel rooms, disrupting Vegas shows, and all around making an uncomfortable embarrassment of themselves with blatant neglect and with everything being irreplaceable. If drug use makes you uncomfortable, this movie is not for you.

However, the movie is somewhat satirical, and everything is blown out of proportion, making the several “normal” minor characters seem out of place and rather concerned. The highway patrol officer, the angry hotel patron, Duke and Gonzo are all outrageous in their actions, which leads to some of the funniest moments in the movie, such as when Duke is trying to check into a hotel while on acid and the clerk who seems unvexed turns into an eel, causing Duke to cower in fear with Gonzo only saying, “Oh, he has a heart problem.” The is also the classic moment where the two scare a poor hitchhiker who runs out of the car in the opposite direction that they were going originally with Duke saying, “I’m gonna miss him.”

Both Depp’s and del Toro’s performances are top notch and by far some of the funniest slapstick and verbal comedy in the entire movie. Everything they say and do all the way down to the way they walk is funny, and Depp’s narration tops it all off.

The movie’s original book is considered one of Thompson’s best works. Born in Louisville, the journalist was known for similarly erratic behavior and was Depp’s close friend. In an interview with David Letterman in 2011, when first meeting Thompson, Depp stated: “People throwing themselves out of the way…and then I heard ‘Out of the way you bastards.’…[Hunter] had a three foot cattle prod in his left hand and a tazer in his right.”

Thompson died in 2005, and Depp funded his funeral and final request to have his ashes shot out of a cannon to the Bob Dylan song “Mr. Tamberine Man.”

While this movie might not be for everyone, it is definitely worth seeing to critique the work of a Kentucky native.