073: Where the Buffalo Roam (1986)

A week after a disappointing screening of The Rum Diary, I decided to go back and find the first incarnation of Hunter S. Thompson for the screen. I found this. I found Bill Murray. Bill Murray found me.

A story compiled from snippets of stories and articles spanning across Thompson’s career, Where the Buffalo Roam is, somewhat unsurprisingly, an uneven film. Even with two strong performances from Bill Murray and Peter Boyle as loose-cannon lawyer Lazlo, the mishmash writing style doesn’t effectively infuse with Art Linson’s clunky and banal direction. It’s unsurprising therefore that Where the Buffalo Roam has fallen in the shadows ofGilliam’s Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, with all it’s Python-esque irreverence and psychedelic charm.

With a questionable creative role that even puts ‘executive producer’ to shame, Thompson’s input as ‘executive consultant’ is nothing short of intriguing. One longingly imagines him and Murray hanging out in silk robes and slippers on set, chatting the shit, sipping on Bacardi Breezers, maybe even playing boardgames, who knows? This air of mystery (which is only heightened with Neil Young’s soundtrack involvement) ends up being more riveting than the film produced. Even with Murray’s idiosyncratic take on his backgammon-buddy, Where the Buffalo Roam, along with the various other emblematic incarnations of Thompson on screen, fail to encapsulate the ramshackle, gonzo essence of the American literary heavyweight. Enjoyable films in all, but they pale in comparison to hearing about it straight from the drunken horse’s mouth.

★★★☆☆☆

IMDb it.

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