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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - February, 2010

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"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-february-2010-fear-and-loathing210

Synopsis

Based upon the book and real-life escapades of Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” documents the drug-fueled journey of writer Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his Samoan attorney sidekick, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro).   Starting with the simple assignment of covering the “Mint 400” dessert race in Las Vegas, the two pump every imaginable drug into their body in an effort to discover the quintessential “American Dream.”


Specifications

  • Universal
  • 1998, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 59 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro
  • Directed by Terry Gilliam
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Brief Nudity
  • Language: Strong

Commentary

I was in college when this film was released theatrically, and remember seeing it with a bunch of fraternity brothers.  It was a wild ride then, and seems even more unbelievable on repeat viewing.  The fact that this whole story is just a slight modification of one of Hunter Thompson’s actual “road trips” is profoundly scary.  How anyone can continue to function with so many different illegal substances in their body is beyond me.  Just when you think Duke and Dr. Gonzo have hit rock bottom, they take yet another drug and sink (or rise, depending on your point of view) to a new low.

Despite the meandering storyline (when is a multi-day drug fest ever logical?), the direction is strong and the cinematography really helps the audience experience the debauchery.  Both Depp and Del Toro are simply brilliant in their respective roles and there are some strong cameo appearances, particularly Gary Busey’s role as a highway patrol officer.   This film is pretty disturbing, but highly recommended.

Technical

This film didn’t look all that great in the theater, so I wasn’t expecting much in terms of picture quality.   However, this Blu-ray looked pretty darn good given the relatively weak source material.  While not reference quality, the transfer preserved the film-like look of the source while still managing to appear “high-def.”  Colors weren’t always natural, but this is a film about drug usage after all.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack was also better than I expected.  There is a creative use of the surround channels and some impressive bass on occasion.  My only real complaint is that some of the dialogue is unintelligible.  The characters (particularly Dr. Gonzo) mutter many of their lines, so it would have been nice if the mixers could have raised the volume just a bit to make things easier to understand.

Extras

There aren’t many extras on this disc.  There are a few deleted scenes and a 10-minute short on some of the locations used during filming. This disc is also D-Box motion enabled as well as BD-Live enabled.