Johnny Depp stars in this long awaited adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s novel, that as fans of the writer will know taps the same vein of the previous Depp/Thompson feverish entry ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’.
Never quite reaching the dizzy craziness of ‘Loathing’, The Rum Diary is still out there enough for Depp to once more play the rambling, inebriated dude, but this time as writer Paul Kemp he is far more suave and refined.
Kemp is a Journalist who takes up a job in the almost American tourist colony Puerto Rico in the early 60’s; he soon comes to loggerheads with local paper editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) and befriends regular drunk photographer Sala (Michael Rispoli) along with his ‘Withnailian’ mate Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi).
One crazy drunk and drug fuelled night too many lands Kemp and Sala in deep water after peeing off the natives, only to be liberated from a swift justice court by influential business man Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) who has motive of his own, a favour in return from Kemp; a publicity job for Kemp to idealise Sanderson and co’s Hotel ventures that threaten the livelihood of the natives of Puerto Rico.
Amber Heard as Sanderson’s party loving fiancée Chenault adds the usual distractions and complications as Kemp slowly begins to question the morality of his debt to Sanderson in destroying paradise with expatriate holiday complexes.
Depp does nothing different to what we have come to expect and is as charismatic as ever, but you sense he could phone in these kinds of performances now.
Richard Jenkins is brilliantly frantic as the boss losing it and his hair, and Rispoli is tremendously cool as the indulging snapper, who gets most of the best whimsical dialogue you would expect from a Thompson scribed source; but Ribisi steals it as the mashed Moberg who is every bit as F.U.B.A.R’ed as director Bruce Robinson’s greatest rogue ‘Withnail’.
Plenty of chuckles are provided by comical situational dilemmas and often brilliant dialogue, but The Rum Diary miscarries with a confused final act that fizzles out as the cool Caribbean vibe is replaced with a puzzling moral awakening that never quite seems in tandem with Kemp’s haphazard lifestyle.
The Rum Diary is a laugh and it’s well worth a look, just don’t expect the psychedelic brilliance of ‘loathing’.
7.5/10 – Worth a look