Where the Buffalo Roam Reviews
Based on Thompson's essay for Rolling Stone, "The Banshee Screams For Buffalo Meat", "Where the Buffalo Roam" stars Bill Murray as Hunter S. Thompson and Peter Doyle as the Oscar Zeta Acosta stand-in Carl Lazlo. The film is told entirely as a flash back of Thompson's as he's writing about his ventures with Lazlo, beginning with when they supposedly met back in 1968, following Lazlo's further involvement with a South American revolution, to eventually Thompson's last meeting with Lazo in 1972. The film focuses on their relationship as well as the rise of Thompson's journalism career.
I write that summary with some trepidation, because in all honesty the film is less a coherent attempt to portray the friendship between Thompson and Acosta and more just a jumbled mess of various manical episodes generally focusing on the doctor of journalism himself. Actually, Lazlo barely appears in the film, and there are long stretches where he's not even mentioned. When he is with Thompson, there are moments where their dynamics begin to show themselves, but immediately dive back at the sign of an event that's supposed to drive the story. Long story short, their relationship is entirely unconvincing. The supporting cast is passable, though any other characters are only there for brief scenes and are never seen again, so they're barely worth mentioning. Peter Boyle plays Lazlo and he does a decent job, though it's nothing special. The biggest problem with this film however, is the script. The script is just flat out awful, even Hunter S. Thompson noted that the script was "garbage". The script gives nothing for the characters to do, nothing for the actors to work with and any attempts at humor either painful or simply not funny.
The only salvation within the entire film is Bill Murray's performance as Hunter S. Thompson. While's he's held back by the flimsy script and amateurish direction, he still pulls off an awesome performance. He's exceptionally convincing as Thompson (which makes sense, considering the hell he apparently went through to play Thompson, and the effect it had on him after the fact), though it leaves me wanting more because there's a seed of greatness and possibilities with his performance is endless, but since he's weighed down by the flawed production it never comes to fruition. But, his performance alone generates the film's few laughs and he is fairly entertaining, so I will give the film at least that.
I honestly say I can't exactly recommend this film to anyone. It wouldn't satisfy fans like myself who are huge fans of Thompson's work since it not only doesn't live up to the source material, but it's just kind of lackluster and general audiences probably won't enjoy it because of the lack of laughs and unconvincing character relationships. I guess if you're a huge fan of Bill Murray or just want to be able to say you've sat through the film, I don't think it's the worst thing in the world to sit through. It's fairly short, at barely an hour and a half, and it's currently offered through instant streaming on Netflix. So if you're really curious about this movie, I'd say give it a watch. I don't regret watching the movie, though I am left wondering what this film would've been like with the proper direction and writing.
small airplane is to be loaded with weapons, but when a police helicopter finds them, Lazlo and his henchmen escape on the plane while Thompson refuses to follow. Thompson's fame and fortune continues. He is a hit on the college lecture circuit and covers the 1972 presidential election campaign. Yet another story connected with mayhem and chaos...
"Where the Buffalo Roam" is a semi-biographical film which loosely depicts Hunter S. Thompson's rise to fame in the 1970s and his relationship with Chicano attorney and activist Oscar Zeta Acosta. Thompson's obituary for Acosta, "The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat," which appeared in Rolling Stone in October 1977, serves as the basis of the film, although screenplay writer John Kaye drew
from several other works, including Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, The Great Shark Hunt, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Thompson served as "executive consultant" on the film. Thompson spent time on the set and talked to Murray about his impressions and observations of the latter's mannerisms. Within two weeks of Thompson being on set, Murray had transformed into him. During production, Murray and Thompson engaged in a series of dangerous one-upmanship contests. "One day at Thompson's Aspen, Colorado, home, after many drinks and after much arguing over who could out-Houdini whom, Thompson tied Billy to a chair and threw him into the swimming pool. Billy nearly drowned before Thompson pulled him out." Murray immersed himself in the character so deeply that when Saturday Night Live started its fifth season, Murray was still in character as Thompson. "In a classic case of the role overtaking the actor, Billy returned that fall to Saturday Night so immersed in playing Hunter Thompson he had virtually become Hunter Thompson, complete with long black cigarette holder, dark glasses, and nasty habits. 'Billy,' said one of the writers, echoing several others, 'was not Bill Murray, he was Hunter Thompson. You couldn't talk to him without talking to Hunter Thompson.'" Murray and Thompson were concerned with the film's lack of continuity and in early 1980 added voice-over narration. When the film was sneak-previewed in late March, the last two scenes and narration were absent. Murray was outraged and the studio ended up shooting a new ending. Three days before it was to be released in theaters a press screening was suddenly canceled because of editing problems. Universal Studios quickly pulled it from distribution. Thompson hated the film, saying he liked Murray's performance but that he "was very disappointed in the script. It sucks - a bad, dumb, low-level, low-rent script." Years later, Murray reflected on the film, "I rented a house in L.A. with a guest house that Hunter lived in. I'd work all day and stay up all night with him; I was strong in those days. I took on another persona and that was tough to shake. I still have Hunter in me". The movie has been panned critically for being a series of bizarre episodes strung together rather than having a cohesive central plot, and I do agree with that criticism. Movie historian Leonard Maltin remarked that "Even Neil Young's music score can't save this dreadful comedy, which will baffle those who aren't familiar with Hunter S. Thompson's work and insult those who are. Jack Kroll wrote, in his review for Newsweek magazine, "Screenwriter John Kaye has reduced Thompson's career to a rubble of disjointed episodes, and the relentless mayhem becomes tiresome chaos rather than liberating comic anarchy." In his review for the Globe and Mail, Paul McGrath wrote, "Murray is, nonetheless, the salvation of this patched-together film", and felt that "the rest is mostly filler. There´s not doubt that if the script had been a hell of lot more cohesive this would had been much better. But, it is still a treat to watch Bill Murray as he does a great impersonation of Hunter S. Thompson and every scene with Murray in focus is a highlight. I love the football game in the hotelroom...