Film Scouts Reviews

"Leaving Las Vegas"

by Eleanor Ringel

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Viva Las Vegas" on two dozen downers and a case of Jack Black. Imagine Elvis and Ann-Margret as Charles Bukowski might have written them and you have Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue in Mike Figgis' film about "The Lost Weekend" as lifestyle and death trip. Cage plays an alcoholic Hollywood writer who pockets his severance check and heads to Vegas to drink himself to death. Literally. Shue is a Vegas hooker who gets hooked on Cage's devil-may-care despair. She gives a riveting performance in a cliched role (heart of gold and heartless pimp, played by Julian Sands), but the movie belongs to Cage whose fierce uncompromising portrayal is as serious as a hang-over and as jittery as the shakes. You can practically smell the stale reek of his alcohol-soaked flesh. Unfortunately, the movie as a whole isn't as good as its stars. In fact, it's a bit of a drunk itself, given to self-indulgent poses and poetic pretentiousness. But Cage and Shue are willing - and very able - to do Figgis' dirty work for him. They leave you feeling unclean and sober.

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