Film Review: Johnny Depp is On, Story is Off in ‘The Rum Diary’

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CHICAGO – Johnny Depp has a Hunter S. Thompson obsession, that is career apparent. After playing the journalist’s alter-ego Raoul Duke in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” Depp gives a turn as Hunter’s younger self in a film based on Thompson’s 1998 novel, “The Rum Diary.”

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.0/5.0
Rating: 3.0/5.0

Depp is game for the role, he must relish any turn in the gonzo journalist’s shoes. He is virtually in every frame and carries the movie grandly on his back, but the story surrounding him is muddled, disconnected and soft. There are some grand flourishes, but ultimately it comes down to defeating a hotel developer, which on the villain scale doesn’t exactly inspire an overwhelming opposing force.

The year is 1960 and a writer named Kemp (Depp) arrives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, because he is a failed novelist and needs a job. The only rag on the island is The San Juan Star, but it is the armpit of journalism, existing only to cater to their dwindling advertising interests. Kemp meets the staff, a gruff photographer named Sala (Michael Rispoli), a part-time religious editor named Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi) and the put-upon editor-in-chief Lotterman (Richard Jenkins). Kemp finds he needs a bigger challenge, and gets involved with a shady island bureaucrat named Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart).

Sanderson wants Kemp to plant stories about a new hotel development he is planning for a nearby island. There are several grifters involved in this project, but Kemp only has eyes for Sanderson’s comely girlfriend, Chenault (Amber Heard). And despite his claim that he is on the “upper end of social drinking,” Kemp can’t help partying with the errant photographer Sala, and the trouble they run into will effect the potential deal that Sanderson and Kemp are trying to forge. The newspapermen, the femme fatale and the developers will all eventually clash.

“The Rum Diary” opens everywhere October 28th. Featuring Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Rispoli and Giovanni Ribisi. Based on a novel by Hunter S. Thompson. Adapted and directed by Bruce Robinson. Rated “R”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “The Rum Diary”

L-R: Giovanni Ribisi, Johnny Depp and Michael Rispoli in ’Rum Diary’
L-R: Giovanni Ribisi, Johnny Depp and Michael Rispoli in ’Rum Diary’
Photo credit: Peter Mountain for FilmDistrict and GK Films

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “The Rum Diary”

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