The Rum Diary

Director: Bruce Robinson
Starring: Johnny Depp, Giovanni Ribisi, Aaron Eckhart
Run time: 120 mins
Rating: **

A mix of the surreal and the sublime, the rum dairy is another presentation of Johnny Depp’s ability to play the unusual, complicated and ultimately thought provoking character.

Depp acts with aplomb to portray the simulateously intellectual and wild character of Paul Kemp. Kemp is a binge drinking, nonchalant New York based journalist, who arrives in 1960’s Puerto Rico to take employment with a struggling US publication.

From the offset it is clear that Kemp is sharp minded, and intent on exposing US corporate influence in the area. Unfortunately Kemp’s crusade to fight the US corporations is thwarted by the impressively suave Sanderson, a shrewd businessman aiming to exploit the expansive Puerto Rican resources.

The film moves forward in a different direction with the introduction of Chenault, the charming and sultry wife of Sanderson, played by Amber Heard, who instantly captivates Kemp. She stands as the antithesis of her husband: outgoing and genuine, while her husband is ruthless and rigid.

In Bruce Robinson’s debut, the audience are offered a cocktail of the light-hearted, drunken adventures of Kemp and his friend Sala (Michael Rispoli), and the malevolent, debauch and corrupt underbelly of Puerto Rican society. Through brilliant scene presentation, he portrays the deep divide inherent within the territory, bringing the disharmony between the American elite and Puerto Rican poor to the forefront.

However, one is left wishing for more, as Robinson fails to integrate one scene to the next causing the film to be disjointed and at times confusing.

In summary, Depp’s first production was an honest and passionate attempt at the semi-autobiographical unpublished work of Hunter S. Thompson. It’s redeeming feature is Depp’s acting performance, which is, as always, brilliantly unconventional. Unfortunately, it is a film which promises a lot, but delivers little.


  1. Very informative review. Good description, definitely want more from these reviewers.

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  2. Sorry but The Rum Diary is by no means Bruce Robinson’s ‘debut’. He has been writing and directing films since 1984 (four directed and four more screenplays) but effectively retired from directing after the debacle of Jennifer 8, a quick look on wikipedia or IMDB would have shown you that.

    In fact Depp specifically wanted Robinson to direct because he was such a fan of Withnail and I; Robinson’s actual directorial debut, a bonfide cult classic, and probably one of the greatest comedies ever made.

    And surely in reviewing any Hunter S. Thompson adaptation Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas needs to be at least mentioned especially as it also stars Johnny Depp as Hunter himself?

    Possibly a little more research needed…

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  3. 5 Dec ’11 at 10:12 pm

    Lorna Potter-Wild

    A really well written piece, thoroughly enjoyed reading it and found the content hugely insightful. Looking forward to viewing your future articles!

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  4. I’m a huge Hunter S Thompson fan, but I was feeling very weary of this film since it has been shelved for almost a year now. I attended the world premiere, and I can report with absolute sincerity that if you loved HST’s work, this will not disappoint.

    The only problem many die hard fans of the book may have is with the character of Mr. Sanderson. In the novel Paul Kemp and Sanderson represent the dueling persona’s of Hunter, one being a cutthroat athletic type, the other being the booze-hound anti-authoritarian. In this film, Johnny Depp plays more to the character being a young HST and combines the characteristics of both into Kemp. Some may have a problem with this, but the movie is stronger for it as you are only rooting for the protagonist while giving the story a strong antagonist, a necessity in filmmaking.

    In my eyes, this is Bruce Robinson’s best work on screen to date, Johnny Depp is absolutely awe-inspiringly believable as a very young and constrained Hunter, and the cast could not have been more dead on.

    Have a great day,
    Denisse Mock

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