Stir together Johnny Depp, Bruce Robinson and Hunter S Thompson and you’d think you would get a pretty intoxicating cocktail. Yet the combination of Hollywood maverick Depp, Withnail & I director Robinson and legendary Gonzo writer Thompson on this screen adaptation of the author’s autobiographical novel The Rum Diary won’t leave the viewer reeling.
Depp, who played Thompson’s anarchic alter ego in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, again stands in for the author. It’s 1960 and Depp’s boozy journalist Paul Kemp escapes the stifling conformity of Eisenhower-era America for rum-soaked Puerto Rico by wangling a job on a local newspaper. But the paper is on its last legs and predatory US businessmen are sizing up their opportunities on the island, as Paul discovers after he gets mixed up with Aaron Eckhart’s slick wheeler-dealer Sanderson and his beautiful girlfriend Chenault (Amber Heard).
Sometimes accompanied by Chenault, and sometimes by dissolute colleagues Sala (Michael Rispoli) and Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi), Paul goes through various drink-and-drug-fuelled escapades. They’re fun enough to watch, but nothing comes near the hallucinatory craziness of Fear and Loathing. What makes The Rum Diary comparatively sober is that it’s a portrait of the author as he struggles to find his voice. It’s not until the close that Depp as Thompson’s screen surrogate finally uncorks the cascading darkly comic poetic rage that he would go on to direct against the world’s ‘bastards’, but by then it’s too late to set the movie on fire.
On general release from Friday 11th November.
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