More Fun To Be Had At A.A. Meeting Than Watching Mediocre Adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary

Is Johnny out of his Deppth with latest gonzo replay?

2011 the rum diary 001 More Fun To Be Had At A.A. Meeting Than Watching Mediocre Adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary

Depp.

The Rum Diary, based on another literary punch-out by gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, was made three years ago, shelved in some musty editing room where unreleasable movies go, and looks it. The dust still shows.

Johnny Depp is dismally miscast as the alter ego of the rebellious author with the “screw you” attitude—a wasted, beat-up alcoholic who goes to Puerto Rico to work for a doomed newspaper called the San Juan Star whose faltering editor (Richard Jenkins, unrecognizable in a gray wig) is helpless to draw much attention to world events on a lawless island overwhelmed by gangsters and riots. Aaron Eckhart is an American P.R. mogul selling off pieces of pristine beachfront used for U.S. military target practice to rich corporate powers to build hotel towers, condos and ugly villas. After getting hired on to write promotional copy for brochures, the protagonist falls for his gorgeous girlfriend (Amber Heard) and a scene-stealing turtle named Harry with a jeweled shell. In no time, he gets fired, smashed to hamburger and left in a drunken stupor on a fly-specked floor. To Hunter S. Thompson fans—little boys weaned on comic books who never grew up to crave bare breasts and bare-knuckle beatings—it’s a call to arms. “There is no dream—just a piss puddle of greed, spreading throughout the world” is the cynical philosophy of the author, and the movie. With no job, no money, no girl and no future, the protagonist sees that the way to redeem himself as a journalist is to write an exposé of the criminal activities in San Juan—a sort of rum diary of corruption—and publish it. But how do you get your old mojo back when your paper is already closed down?

In an attempt to distract the viewer from the fact that there is nothing going on here, director Bruce Robinson cobbles in cockfights, sexual tension, a red convertible racing at breakneck speed, a traveling carnival, endless bottles of rum and a hermaphrodite witch doctor who drives a garbage truck. It’s all window dressing for an empty ruin, haunted by the hungover ghost of a mostly forgotten writer who died in 2005. The oddest thing about The Rum Diary, though, is all those half-nude shots of Mr. Depp, who is covered with tattoos, trying to camouflage them with Max Factor. Everyone has seen them, so if you’ve gone that far to abuse your body already, why not let it all hang out? In a role that is practically a beachcomber, the sun on that much greasepaint looks like he’s got spotted fever.

rreed@observer.com

THE RUM DIARY

Running Time 120 minutes

Written by Bruce Robinson

Directed by Bruce Robinson

Starring Johnny Depp, Giovanni Ribisi and Aaron Eckhart

2/4

Comments

  1. No, really.  Tell us how you feel.

  2. Dr_memory says:

    H.S.T mostly forgetting.  Perhaps in Rexie’s circle of chum-scrubbing sycophants, but the rest of us recognize HST as one of the great journalists of the 70’s and 80’s.

  3. Zach Motl says:

    Sounds like your obvious dislike of the author is coloring your view of the film.  Very professional.

  4. Ib says:

    “Is Johnny out of his Deppth…?”

    There aren’t enough face palms in the world.

  5. wat says:

    “Johnny Depp is dismally miscast as the alter ego of the rebellious author”

    really?

    REALLY?

  6. Stu says:

    This ” mostly forgotten writer who died in 2005″ was dubbed the “greatest American comic writer of the 20th century” by American Book Award winner Tom Wolfe. It felt as if you spent as much empty air gassing about Thompson and you expelled on the film in question.

  7. Harryz says:

    Rex is right.  Thompson was a hack, and it’s tough to make a decent film out of bad material.  Depp can be forgiven for trying to promote the work of a friend, but that knowledge can’t salvage this movie.  Thompson was known more for his “character” than his work.  No one took this guy seriously in his life…except maybe J. Depp.  But then again, Depp is not known to be a literary genious.  Back off people.  Rex is merely commenting on another bad movie…get over it.

  8. shithawk says:

    mediocre is an understatement. this movie is shameful. i’d rather read this shitty reviews than watch that tripe again. i walked out. SPITOOO!

  9. John Lang says:

    This article brought to you by CAPITALISM! Well done, I had forgotten you weren’t sponsored by ads representing corporations which are more than happy with the status quo. P.S. I like Hunter S. Thompson and women. Oh! I’ve never read a comic book, should get around to that. Anyway, good job defending your point of view on our system rather than critiquing a movie! Typical journalistic garbage. Develop your own point of view you zombie. You’ll live life the American way, full of shady backroom deals screwing thousands out of pensions and go to sleep at night with your convictions that the American dream is yours to possess and define alone. He saw the ills being committed for the sake of a dollar and spoke out and yet you seem to attack the man who was seemingly looking out for the well-being of the Puerto Rican locals who had been completely abused by your American Dream. Hope your that dream helps you sleep at night. “Let your life be a counter-friction to the machine” -Thoreau P.P.S Is transcendentalism the result of apathy for mammary glands and comic book reading.

  10. John Lang says:

    Hunter S. Thompson wrote about social ills, you write about movies. Way to seize the opportunity of having a column.