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The Rum Diary

Updated on December 12, 2011

The Rum Diary

Director: Bruce Robinson

Writers: Bruce Robinson, Hunter S. Thompson

Cast: Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins, Michael Rispoli, Marshall Bell, Amaury Nolasco, Bill Smitrovich, Karen Austin, Julian Holloway, Bruno Irizarry, Enzo Cilenti, Aaron Lustig, Tisuby González

Synopsis: Paul Kemp is a freelance journalist who finds himself at a critical turning point in his life while writing for a run-down newspaper in the Caribbean. Paul is challenged on many levels as he tries to carve out a more secure niche for himself amidst a group of lost souls all bent on self-destruction.

MPAA Rating: Rated R for language, brief drug use and sexuality

Another film is saved...thanks to Johnny Depp

Although I wouldn't go out of my way to say "The Rum Diary" is a bad film, as it definitely has it's moments. However, the story is so obliviously weak, and lacks any kind of central direction to hook it's audience. But, like Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, "The Rum Diary" is saved largely because of Johnny Depp. Isn't it amazing how good of an actor he is? Seriously, even in some of his worst films, he still somehow manages to give a solid performance, to where you can never quite bring yourself to ever hate him. It's simply unbelievable sometimes, as even some of Hollywood's current best actors have their limitations, and share of bad movies where they did not perform well.

George Clooney, for example, may be one of the best actors of this generation, and rightfully so considering he's made some pretty good films like "Up In The Air", "The Ides of March", "Ocean's Eleven", "The American", and etc. However, he was also in arguably the worst super hero adaptation of all time in "Batman & Robin", where many people felt he was horrible in the role as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Same thing with Christian Bale, who was easily out shined in such films as "Terminator Salvation" and "Public Enemies"; mainly because he was never given enough screen time, or character development to work with in both movies.

Therefore, what the hell is it about Johnny Depp that he can somehow do no wrong in any film regardless of how awful it is? Heck, the closest film that he did that would even come close to being his worst performance was "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", but then again, the movie wasn't awful because of him. Granted, the film wasn't that great, but you could at least applaud Depp for bringing a fresh new take on a popular cult character like Wonka, without the need to imitate Gene Wilder's version. Plus, in spite of bad dialogue and writing for his Wonka character, he was still able to deliver a strong performance in the movie anyway. Hence, I'll ask this again...isn't it just simply amazing how good of an actor he is?

I apologize to all my readers if I'm coming off as a ranting fan boy idolizing Johnny Depp, but he's literally one of the few actors that can make any movie role somehow work; in spite of limitations of the script provided. As for what does all this have to do with "The Rum Diary", I'll get into that now. The story is based off Hunter S. Thompson's novel of the same name, and features Johnny Depp in the starring role as Paul Kemp.

Paul's life is said to be loosely based on the real life experiences of Hunter S. Thompson, as he lands a journalism job working for a local newspaper in the Caribbean. Although Paul may think he has a sweet gig at first, it turns out the news that he's required to work for only requires him to cover stories that would promote tourism rather than actual news; which obviously upsets Paul to a certain degree. To make matters more interesting, Paul Kemp is shown throughout the movie, as having a bit of a drinking problem. How long he's been an alcoholic is never said in the movie, but from what they do tell us here, it seems Paul doesn't show much hesitation when it comes to drowning his sorrows in a drink.

Eventually, he bumps into a corrupt businessman named Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), who's involved in a complex real estate scam; which requires Paul's services to persuade unsuspecting consumers. However, Paul respectfully declines, but he does find himself tempted by the offer because Sanderson's wife, Chenault (Amber Heard), happens to be the same pretty girl that caught his attention on the island, during a party one night. To make a long story short, Paul somehow finds himself in some legal problems after a night of drinking with one of his co-workers, and he's bailed out by Sanderson....which is a big mistake no less. Not only does this immediately make him indebted to take up Sanderson's job offer in his real estate scam, but he soon finds his life spiraling down the path of self destruction.

Although based on this brief summary, one would think "The Rum Diary" would have more emotional impact, but surprisingly it doesn't. Sure, there's the brief forbidden love story between Chenault and Paul that carries it's own dramatic weight, and there's a conclusion to Paul's character that gives him a strong resolve in his journalism, but that doesn't happen until the end of the movie. And by the time it does happen, the movie is already over; which makes this movie a bit of a tease of what it could have been if more thought process had gone into the story.

Sure, I'll admit the images that Paul sees when he's high, in one scene, is eerily reminiscent of the film, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"; which only stands to create some rather impressive imagery to allow the audience to see how in depth Paul's addiction to alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs go. But in the end, it's only a teaser of what could have been a more dramatic story.

However, that's not to say this is a bad movie by any means. No, just a slightly above average one at best, as the acting in this movie is solid on all cylinders. Not only does Johnny Depp put on an Oscar-esque type of performance again, but even seasoned actors like Aaron Eckhart and Richard Jenkins seem to be in top form as well. Plus, Amber Heard wasn't too shabby playing the seductively mischievous married woman that finds herself smitten by Paul's charms.

In the end, "The Rum Diary" may not be the best Johnny Depp film that I've seen, but it's certainly a good movie nonetheless. If you haven't seen it by now, then I'd highly recommend it at a rating of two and a half out of four.


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    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, and i didn't think you were ranting, as I enjoyed reading your thoughts about each actor. To be honest, I couldn't agree with you more, as you brought up a lot of great points as far as I'm concerned. Anyway, I do hope that you enjoy the film whenever you get a chance to see it, and thanks for stopping by, as it's always a pleasure seeing you. :)

    • vmartinezwilson profile image

      Vanessa Martinez Wilson 6 years ago from Vancouver, WA

      Stevennix, I really appreciate the thought you put into your reviews. I probably won't see this film anytime soon, but it's good to read about it. I agree that Depp has grown into a superb actor and first noticed it in Benny and Joon. I couldn't believe how good he was. I also agree that Christian Bale is another actor that can pull off just about any role, too bad he can't stop being an ass so I can just enjoy his films without having to push through his off screen behavior.

      I will say that the difference, in my humble opinion, between Depp and Clooney is that Depp has worked on his craft (despite the poor showing in Charlie and the Chocoloate factor whose failure lies with Burton). Clooney doesn't seem to do that as much as pick great scripts and roles that fit him, which isn't a horrible thing. In fact, it is what has kept him relevant. His right there with Brad Pitt. Not so great, but at least they both know where their niche is and usually play to it beautifully. Solaris and Seven notwithstanding.

      Now, I'm ranting, lol. Great job once again!

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 6 years ago


      that's cool. well i hope you both enjoy the movie then, and be sure to let me know what he thinks of it compared to the book.


      That's a very good question to be honest, as only time will tell. Personally, I don't think it was that bad of a movie, as it did have it's moments, but I guess we'll definitely have to wait and see. Anyway, thanks for stopping by again buddy. :)

    • profile image

      icountthetimes 6 years ago

      @Stevennix2001 Yes, I'm hoping to see it in a couple of weeks with my brother. He is a big Hunter S. Thompson fan, has read the book and wants to see how the film compares.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 6 years ago from Virginia

      Nice review....well you might have liked his performance but I think the generally consensus is that this movie is a mess....and even the power of Johnny Depp could lift The Rum Diary at the box office. It is possible that as years go by ....more people will think the movie was "ahead of its time". Voted up and useful.

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 6 years ago


      Your welcome. I'm glad you liked the review. Yeah, I think you'd be better off just renting this movie if that's the case. I think out of all the characters that he's played in a while, this one seems like the most normal if you ask me, as I tend to agree with you about his usual choice in roles. However, it's still an okay movie if you give it a chance. Anyway, thanks for stopping by.


      lol. that's cool. well i hope you enjoy the film whenever you get a chance to see it, and thanks for stopping by. :)


      Oh well. To each their own is what I always say. However, I do appreciate you stop by to visit us again. :)

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      I saw "Fear and Loathing" and thought Johnny was simply brilliant in a bad role. Hunter Thompson isn't a very sympathetic character to me: he's just too far out there. That's why, in spite of Johnny Depp, I'll give "The Rum Diaries" a miss.

    • profile image

      icountthetimes 6 years ago

      The reviews I've read haven't been great, but I'm intrigued enough to know that I'm going to end up watching this anyway.

    • Flightkeeper profile image

      Flightkeeper 6 years ago from The East Coast

      Hey Steven, thanks for the heads up on The Rum Diary. I'm not a fan of Johnny Depp although I do think he's a very good actor. A lot of the characters that he takes on are off-beat and I wondered what he'd do with The Rum Diary, I think I'll wait until the DVD comes out, maybe.