The Rum Diary

Year: 2011
Production Co: GK Films
Director: Bruce Robinson
Writer: Bruce Robinson/Hunter S Thompson
Cast: Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard, Michael Rispoli, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi, Marshall Bell

After the (relative) financial failure of The Tourist, I was worried star Johnny Depp would take it as the market having spoken and simply line more action adventure crap like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies one after another, abandoning the edgy, risky independent movies he used to be known for.

After the reception to his love letter to friend Hunter S Thompson, we should worry even more. It was so derided I expected a turkey of epic proportions. It's a bit of a mess, but it's nowhere near as terrible as you've heard. Playing borderline-alcoholic reporter Paul Kemp, Depp arrives San Juan in the swinging 60s to work for the ailing English language newspaper.

Once there he finds a workforce that ranges between crazy and certifiable, a beautiful American society girl (Heard) he becomes obsessed with and an offer from a rich and crooked cabal of industrialists who want to clear pristine beach to build resorts, led by the boyfriend of his crush, the slick Sanderson (Eckhart, seeming to have dropped in from another movie).

As far as I can tell, the story was about the birth of a soul (just like Thompson's) who decided early on not to compromise his principles for money – the modern equivalent might be a story about a reporter who decides not to accept travel junkets offered by movie studios or technology vendors.

But it's never very clear exactly what the rich developers want Paul to do other than write a few press releases, and his arc from jaded drunk to firebrand truth-teller is jarring and wholly unbelievable. The problem isn't that the plot was incoherent, it's simply that none of it ties up or strings together very well. It seems like an early cut with more footage to go in and plenty to be cut.

Meanwhile, with Depp filming The Lone Ranger while this movie was being released, we should all pray he hasn't lost his edgy, indie soul just yet.

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