By now I think people are aware of how big a Hunter S. Thompson fan I am. The man provided us with some great pieces of literature, a few decent movie adaptations and a bundle of interesting documentaries on his work and his life. He is very much a person I thrive on watching and reading, I love to intake the adaptations of his work, which is probably why I sought out a copy of Where the Buffalo Roam. After viewing this miserably mediocre piece of early Bill Murray action, it’s a real shame that I can’t just forget about it entirely.
I’m still not entirely sure whether or not I like Bill Murray’s portrayal of Hunter S. Thompson. Not quite reaching the heights of Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Murray’s portrayal feels like a strange culmination of genuine Thompson like habits and the charming comedy Murray can bring to a movie. A strange mix, but it does lead to some somewhat impressive scenes, some of which fare better than others. Memorable for the genuine strangeness of some of its scenes, Where the Buffalo Roam spends most of its time relying on Murray to bring some of that iconic energy to the performance.
That’s a shame though, because outside of a respectable although shaky Bill Murray performance, we also have a lovely Peter Boyle performance, who plays Lazlo, the right-hand man of Murray’s Hunter S. Thompson. The two don’t exactly have the best chemistry with one another, but it’s serviceable enough and carries us through to the final moments of the movie. Most of the comedic moments come from the larger than life portrayals that Murray and Boyle bring to the table, but it’s never quite enough to bring about some genuinely funny moments.
One of two films director Art Linson ever directed (the other being The Wild Life, a film that screams mediocre coming of age shlock), he provides us with a basic enough approach to who Hunter S. Thompson was, and the reactions the squares and suits around him had. Maybe it’s due to the fact that Hunter signed away any right to change the script, and under John Kaye we suffer through some unbearably poor and unmatched scenes at times. The opening moments of Hunter in the hospital are prolific in how banal they are, bringing us nothing of substance or interest.
The only thought that continues to surface in my head is that “it could’ve been a lot worse”, and that is the case for Where the Buffalo Roam. A piece of film that is completely harmless, one that will certainly appeal to mega fans of Thompson’s work; but for those that know Thompson only as a name in journalism, it’s certainly not a film you should use to introduce yourself to Hunter’s further characteristics, quirks and adoration for drugs.