Based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary, follows itinerant journalist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) on an alcohol-fueled journey across the pristine island of Puerto Rico. Adopting the rum-soaked life of the island, Paul soon becomes obsessed with Chenault (Amber Heard) the wildly attractive fiancée of Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), an American businessman involved in shady development deals. When Kemp is recruited by Sanderson to write favorably about his latest unsavory scheme, the journalist is presented with a choice: to use his words for the corrupt businessman's financial benefit or use them to take him down.
Fans of the writer Hunter S. Thompson or even the bizarre cult movie Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas will have been eagerly awaiting the release of The Rum Diary, the latest Thompson adaptation once again starring Johnny Depp.
The film, as with the original book, is little more than a veiled narrative of Thompson’s experiences and work ethic as a journalist. Credited as the founder of “Gonzo Journalism” Thompson would involve himself entirely in the world of which he was writing, living his life alongside Hells Angels and drug dealers. The story of Paul Kemp in The Rum Diary is distinctly similar; as Kemp begins a new job at a Puerto Rican newspaper whose readers are by and large a bunch of drunken ex-pats. Kemp throws himself into the very same lifestyle with some rather ridiculous consequences.
A more linear and grounded movie than Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Fear and Loathing the movie is nevertheless a divergence into the strange. Depp is, as ever, brilliant and so he should be considering he’s been trying to get the project off the ground for nearly twenty years: yet his efforts may have been a little wasted, if you’ll excuse the pun, as the movie never really takes off.
Rather than fluctuating up and down the Rum Diary drunkenly zig-zags from brilliant to mediocre, without ever stepping entirely into the terrible. The movie has some great bits, including a ridiculous and hilarious car chase that sees Depp sitting on his photographer’s lap in order to reach the pedals, but it doesn’t have the snap and substance it really needs to get it off the ground.