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Leaving Las Vegas Review

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An alcoholic winds up in Las Vegas planning to drink himself to death but meets a beautiful call girl and falls in love.

★★★★

The dire effects of alcoholism are brought horribly to life in this grim, darkly comic tale of dissipation and self destruction in the world's capital of tack. From the opening shot of Nicolas Cage happily wheeling a shopping cart around a supermarket, piled with bottles of booze, this is clearly no Honeymoon In Vegas.

Cage is Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic screenwriter who goes to Vegas to drink himself to death, only to meet hooker Sera (Shue) and unexpectedly fall in love.

Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by John O'Brien, an alcoholic who committed suicide shortly after the film rights were acquired, this is dark, disturbing, and exceptionally moving. Cage is utterly realistic, and sometimes hilarious, with his copious beverage guzzling, wired antics, and the inevitable DTs and black outs. He is pure nihilism, his drinking has no motive, and even romance cannot save him.

It is Shue - in a stunningly sensitive performance as the working girl, even if she is too wholesome looking - who, having escaped the violent clutches of Russian pimp Yuri (Sands), tries to liberate them both.

Beautifully shot in Super 16mm, with a smoky, moody jazz score (written by the director), Figgis handles the interplay between the two main characters as deftly as he did in The Browning Version, creating a mood of dissonance with the world that most ordinary people in their cosy domestic lives never experience.

Emotionally draining, the graphic depictions of physical abuse are tempered by the delicate moments of doomed love. Powerful and visceral, this is the ultimate sobering experience.