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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Depp's 'The Rum Diary' will leave you thirsting for all the wrong reasons

Thursday, February 23, 2012

From left, Giovanni Ribisi, Johnny Depp and Michael Rispoli star in "The Rum Diary", based on Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompon's nove.
When I hear the names Johnny Depp and Hunter S. Thompson in the same sentence, I can't help but get a little excited. So when it was announced that Depp would be starring in a film version of the Gonzo journalist's novel "The Rum Diary," I was beyond happy. The film would be fun, fast and frantic and still manage to deliver a good story.

Not so fast.

Sometimes our perception of what something will be is so far off base from what reality offers us that it's difficult to comprehend at first. That's what happened to me with "The Rum Diary." For everything I thought the film would be, it wasn't. Instead of the good time I expected to have, I found myself bored and wishing the movie was over well before any payoff could take place -- and that's a rare thing for me to say.

"The Rum Diary" is the story of Paul Kemp (Depp) and his arrival at the San Juan Star after leaving New York. A talented writer, Kemp finds himself at a ramshackle newspaper and quickly forms a friendship with the paper's staff photographer Bob Sala (Michael Rispoli), a man whose love of the drink rivals Kemp's.

Kemp's writing skills gain the attention of shady businessman Hal Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) who, along with his colleagues, want Kemp to be part of project to develop an area of the island currently used by the military. At first Kemp agrees, but after seeing how locals are living in squalor while American businessmen are making millions, he decides to go after Sanderson and expose him.

As Kemp tries to get the story out, editor Edward Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) skips town as the newspaper is shut down. He, along with Sala and Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi) and a group of scabs from the paper, decide to run one final issue of the paper with his story and take down Lotterman in the process.

The biggest problem with the film is it rambles from one spot to another and does it very unentertainingly. With the exception of a few funny moments, the movie is boring and you'll find yourself praying for its end.

The film's tension is built upon whether or not Kemp will be able to expose Sanderson and that just fades as the movie ends. There's no satisfying end to that story arc.

Ribisi, Rispoli and Eckhart are solid in their roles, but Depp gets lost in the shuffle. Depp has struggled in his recent flicks and "The Rum Diary" is no exception. I'm not sure if he's become content or is just in a rut, but he's failed to impress.

This was director Bruce Robinson's first feature film since 1992's "Jennifer 8." It also was his first screenplay since "In Dreams" in 1999 and it shows.

Final Cut: If you're a fan of Depp or Thompson, be prepared to be disappointed. "Rum's" story is uneven and just when it begins to get interesting, the flick's over and we're left thirsting for something more. Maybe the title says it all and we need a chilled cocktail to make it through in one piece. I'm sure the good Doctor would approve of that at least.

2.5 out of 5 stars

The Rum Diary

Starring: Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Rispoli, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi

Writer: Bruce Robinson

Director: Bruce Robinson