Review – The Rum Diary

Getting lost in the wilderness is easy to do. Everyday people are rescued from jungles, deserts and multi-levelled parking lots. You see them getting winched up by a rescue helicopter on the news and wonder, how did a brief bushwalk turn into a nightmare so quickly? In ‘The Rum Diary’ Johnny Depp gets lost in paradise and a film with no plot. Watch in amazement as something that’s supposed to be a tribute to writer Hunter S. Thompson wanders off into a vacuum of mediocrity never to be saved.

American journalist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) takes a job working for a newspaper in Puerto Rico during the 1950s. His hard drinking and strange co-workers constantly get him in trouble with the locals and the wealthy expatriates who live there.

The locations are beautiful and San Juan, Puerto Rico is the superstar of the film. Well placed travel agencies near cinemas are sure to benefit from ‘The Rum Diary’.

Reflecting on ‘The Rum Diary’ is hard because over the course of two hours nothing happens. There are a few adventurous oddball moments but there is no plot the drive the film or give you any reason to care about the characters. A romantic subplot has no impact and the film feels like it’s building to something but nothing ever eventuates and just keeps going nowhere.

Considering Depp is in Hunter S. Thompson territory he should be in his element (see ‘Fear and Loathing Las Vegas’) and the film is a tribute to the writer. It’s a nice sentiment, but Depp is really average, and for an actor known for playing extraordinary characters, he has become ordinary. Michael Rispoli is a good sidekick and Aaron Eckhart, Richard Jenkins and Giovanni Ribisi make up the mix of loons and businessmen.

Writer/director Bruce Robinson weaves a few interesting ideas into the film including the price of the American dream and the impact the wealthy expats have on the tropical landscape and the local population. These moments are strong but fleeting and it’s a shame they were not explored further.

‘The Rum Diary’ is clearly a passion project for Depp and you can see that he believes strongly in every word of dialogue he says. Hopefully, Depp achieved a personal goal and fans of Thompson may get something out of it. If you don’t have that personal attachment to the material like Depp and company, then you’re probably better off drinking a bottle of rum and making your own fun.


‘The Rum Diary’ is now showing.

The Popcorn Junkie