Art Linson’s Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)
Based loosely on Hunter S. Thompson’s obituary to his good friend and iconic partner in crime, Oscar Zeta Acosta, this film attempts to capture their epic friendship while also being something of a chronicle of Thompson’s own rise to prominence. Acosta is often given a fake name, here his name is Carl Lazlo, he’s an attorney known for his civil rights work who helps keep Hunter out of prison. The film then presents a number of episodes in Hunter’s life where Acosta/Lazlo plays significantly important roles.
While Bill Murray’s performance as Thompson is quite excellent, this film really is just a cliche Hollywood comedy, stripped of any of the personality which defined Hunter’s writing and life. The script absolutely fails to grasp what made Thompson such a counter-culture icon, what made him a defining voice in American culture. While it touches on the numerous social movements and moments of his life, they are basically cheap jokes or background elements which the film doesn’t seem very interested in.
In fairness I do actually enjoy a good amount of the humour here, but that’s mostly due to delivery. Bill Murray delivers a particularly transformative performance, one of the most unique he has ever done. Furthermore the music, assembles and performed by Neil Young, seems to understand the social subtext of the subject matter here better than any of the film makers. But aside from that, this film is just cheap and lazy Hollywood nonsense that avoids any kind of difficult or interesting subject matter like the plague. 2/5