JOHNNY Depp, a close friend of iconic American writer Hunter S Thompson, takes another swig from his pal’s literary musings in this adaptation of his 1998 novel.
Written for the screen and directed by Bruce Robinson (Withnail & I), The Rum Diary is clearly a labour of love for Depp, who previously starred in the trippy film version of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas and paid for Thompson’s 2005 funeral.
While the actor’s motives are very touching, this comical road trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, during the Eisenhower era is a bore.
Almost nothing happens in two hours and when the plot finally kicks into gear and the lead character is poised to expose a shady property deal, that subplot also fizzles out.
The booze flows freely as journalist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) heads to Puerto Rico to take up a position on The San Juan Star run by long-suffering editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins).
Photographer Sala (Michael Rispoli) becomes Paul’s right-hand man as the newcomer enjoys rum-soaked island life and forges an alliance with local businessman Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), who is plotting to transform the island into a capitalist paradise.
Having hired Paul to write the promotional material, Sanderson and his American investors insist that the journalist signs a non-disclosure agreement.
However, Paul is far more interested in Sanderson’s trophy fiancee Chenault (Amber Heard).
Sala introduces Paul to drug and alcohol-fuelled journalist Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi), who doses them both up with a powerful hallucinogen.
“Your tongue is like an accusatory giblet!” screams Paul as Sala’s tongue appears to slither out of his mouth.
The terrifying vision spurs Paul to write a piece exposing Sanderson’s plans.
“I will speak for my readers and it will be a voice of ink and rage,” declares Paul. But the corrupt businessman has powerful allies.
The Rum Diary is a blur of strange and sometimes amusing vignettes.
Depp holds the folly together with his theatrics, but there is little else to recommend Robinson’s film.
Supporting performances add colour but no emotional depth, while Heard looks stunning in close-up, frequently without her clothes.
Like Depp, fans of Thompson’s work will revel in his vision of the era.
For the rest of us, it’s a cinematic hangover that compels us to promise to never drink from Thompson’s ink well ever again.