A prequel to Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas that I was very excited for in 1999, less so in 2011 when it finally came out. Depp does a good job dialing back to an earlier, less insane Hunter S. Thompson impersonation, but this origin story for HST’s career, based on his early (but belatedly-published) novel, doesn’t have much to recommend it besides the pleasure of hanging out with Depp’s HST and a new comic sidekick in Michael Rispoli (Summer of Sam) and a decent comeback for Robinson (Withnail & I).

Aaron Eckhart plays a slick wealthy bad guy (and Depp’s part-time employer), gets to make a nice F&L reference, pointing at the ocean saying he needs someone with the right kind of eyes (or maybe HST just wrote that dialogue twice). Amber Heard (star of The Ward) is Eckhart’s hot wife with a thing for Depp. Giovanni Ribisi isn’t entirely successful as a drunk and dangerous crime correspondent on the newspaper (run by Richard Jenkins with a hairpiece), but he isn’t significantly outclassed by the rest of the film so it works out. Someone uses the term “living wage” – did that exist in the late 1950’s?

Drunken Fantasy scene 1: rum bowling alley

Drunken Fantasy scene 2: Rispoli tongue

One of those cult movies that you have to see over and over, or drunk, or high, or with the right friends, or at the right time in your life. I met none of the qualifictions, but sill enjoyed it quite a lot. Seems it was the Big Lebowski of its time, with the massively devoted fanbase. And I can see that now, having watched the half-hour bonus feature on the DVD, playing key scenes and lines again, giving me a second look. Certainly the performances and dialogue (when I could make it out) are absurdly good, which probably makes this an endlessly rewatchable movie.

The key performers are Richard E. “Kafka” Grant and Paul McGann (Alien 3, Ken Russell’s The Rainbow) as unemployed actor roommates who go on holiday, Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter‘s uncle) as Grant’s homosexual relative who lends them his cottage then shows up with designs on McGann, and Ralph Brown (played a stoner again in The Boat That Rocked, also in The Hit) as the ultimate pothead, a dubious friend of the two leads.

Robinson dropped off the face of the earh after the early 90’s, but is reportedly back with Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary – from working with Ralph Steadman on Withnail to adapting Hunter S. Thompson.

“Masturbating much?”
“Constantly! I have a talking boil on my neck.”

I think I was supposed to watch Withnail & I first, since it’s the one that got all the bonus features on the Criterion disc, but I felt like starting with this one. Somebody I know has warned me about these two movies once… can’t remember who, but anyway I liked this just fine, and will check out Withnail sometime.


A usually-funny comedy about the advertising business. Dude is high-power ad exec until one troubling assignment to come up with a slogan for a zit cream. He has such trouble that he starts to question the entire practice of advertising… and that’s when a talking boil shows up on his neck, representing his bad ad-man self. It eventually takes over the body (with added mustache) with a good-guy-within boil on HIS neck. A little more gross than the usual angel/devil on your shoulder, but same idea. More anarchist (or communist) speeches (by the good anti-ad-man persona) than in most films. Remember the bizarre animated lovebirds, too.


Writer/director Bruce Robinson (also wrote The Killing Fields) put together a good comedy, with an excellent lead performance by Richard Grant (Karaoke, some latter Altmans, and Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life).


Movie feels not like an advertisement but like a political attack, like a speech, but without the actual speeches interrupting the comic flow of things. Energetic and fun(ny), worth watching for sure.