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Johnny Depp
Amber Heard
Richard Jenkins
Giovanni Ribisi
Aaron Eckhart
Michael Rispoli.
Bruce Robinson.
Bruce Robinson.
Running Time
119 minutes

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The Rum Diary
Hunter gathering

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Journalist Paul Kemp (Depp) travels to Puerto Rico to write for the local newspaper, The San Juan Star. Immersing himself in the island’s rum-soaked lifestyle, he soon becomes obsessed with Chenault (Heard), the fiancée of wily American entrepreneur Sanderson (Eckhart), a shady property developer. He recruits Kemp to write favourable things about his latest scheme, and it’s down to the journalist to take the money or the moral high ground...

The Rum Diary
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America's in the doldrums as the ’60s dawn, Eisenhower’s grasp on the country is dwindling and Richard Nixon’s march to power is on the rise. Sensing the switching allegiances back home, Hunter S. Thompson fled America for Puerto Rico to take up a post on El Sportivo magazine, and while there wrote an early manuscript for The Rum Diary. Depp coaxed Hunter to publish the book and, later, Bruce Robinson out of semi-retirement to script and direct this adaptation.

Forget the wretch Johnny Depp portrayed in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas; Hunter was a younger, more innocent man when he headed for Puerto Rico. Depp still has his inimitable burr down, but this is a wide-eyed Thompson, only yet coming alive to the horrors of politics and the world. As Kemp admits early on, he just hasn’t found his writer’s voice yet. Flashes of Hunter’s latter-day madness raise their head in an early LSD trip and the way Kemp motors through the hotel mini bar. “Are they not complimentary?” he asks of his put-upon editor, Lotterman (a fraught Richard Jenkins) as he confronts him with a series of bills as thick as the Bible. His compatriots, the down-at-heel photographer, Sala (Michael Rispoli), and the burnt-out basketcase and sometimes journalist, Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi), add ballast to Kemp’s craft, the latter the closest thing to something that might have appeared in the parade of grotesques that made up Withnail, if Withnail had forsaken ’60s London for somewhere a little warmer.

Which leads us to the question; can Bruce Robinson still carry a film? Absolutely. The script is robust, witty and sharp, with Robinson’s bon mots peppered throughout. Choosing to shoot the film in 16mm too gives the interiors a dusky, vintage tone; you can almost feel the sawdust springing from the floorboards as a club comes to thrumming life. Plus, he can do physical comedy as well, bringing an absurd yet near-murderous car chase to life, all the while conveying the despair and austerity of the times, of an unwilling society stuck hard under America’s gleaming boot heel.

A fitting tribute to Hunter and the demise of the American Dream, but first and foremost a thrilling and funny snapshot of a country on its knees and a writer finding his feet.

Reviewed by Philip Wilding

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Rum Diary
Empire Star Rating

Loved this film

I really enjoyed this, even more than fear and loathing. Stuck to hunter's style and vission.Johnny Depp was great, if alittle old to play Kemp. But the film itself was great, almost inspired me to indulge in a few durknen adventures. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by AdamPetrie at 14:44, 30 March 2012 | Report This Post


I just watched this film,it was well made with good acting. Depp carried it but it was ultimately pointless. I did enjoy it (while it was on) but looking back it amounted to nothing... there was no story (more of a character piece.) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by S. C. Lee at 19:55, 10 March 2012 | Report This Post

Rum Diary

Hunter's Rum Diary has finally come to light and been made into a masterpiece well that's my opinion anyway, and if your a fan of Johnny Depp/ Hunter S. Thompson's work this is a film definitely for you. Experience Peurto Rico through the eyes of Paul Kemp an American journalist struggling in the 1950's, who enjoys way to many miniatures and drugs. Enjoy the exotic location of Peurto Rico: Gorgeous weather,jewel encrusted tortoises , cock fighting, fancy buildings and of course the boo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by deppfanatic at 18:31, 31 December 2011 | Report This Post

Four stars? Seriously??

Seen this one in the sneak preview yesterday:: tp://]The Rum Diaryhe comparisons to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas are easily made. Both are film versions of Hunter S. Thompson novels, in both drugs and alcohol play a big role and of course Johnny Depp plays the lead in both of them. But this can`t even possible stand in the shadow of Gilliam`s mastertrip. It`s extremely overlong, boring and the script is all over the place without anything close to structure to ... More

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Posted by TheGodfather at 22:43, 09 December 2011 | Report This Post

'Are they not complimentary?'

A fantastic story of a young journalists struggles, one johnny Depp will be remembered for! Read my full review of 'The Rum Diary' among others here at Thank you all! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Silencer92 at 13:43, 24 November 2011 | Report This Post

RE: The Rum Diary

Saw this at the weekend and absolutely loved it. Works as a kind of origin story for Hunter S. Thompson and his various fictionalised aliases and I'd love to watch it as the beginning of a trilogy along with Fear and Loathing and Where The Buffalo Roam. What needs to be remembered is that the source material is a lost novel and never one of his greatest works but I felt Robinson managed sterling work creating a sense of Thompson-esque chaos throughout. Special mention to Giovanni Ribisi who bou... More

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Posted by ChudMonkey at 10:40, 21 November 2011 | Report This Post

Needs to make up it's mind.

I saw this at the weekend. While I was entertained during certain scenes, I couldn't help feel a bit confused by what was presented. It's not that the story is complicated in any way, it's just that I have no idea what type of film it's trying to be. Is it trying to be a comedy or a serious drama? It seems to lose its way somewhat during the middle and takes a somewhat strange direction in my opinion. I felt it was a bit too long for a film of this type but it was quite entertaining and wort... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jaalyn at 10:48, 16 November 2011 | Report This Post

RE: What a Mess

Saw this at the weekend. Thought it was decent enough. A solid 3 stars plus a bonus star for the stunningly beautiful Amber Heard. ... More

Posted by BelovedAunt at 15:23, 14 November 2011 | Report This Post

What a Mess

Apart from a few mildly funny sequences the film just doesn't work and is a total waste of the talent involved. ... More

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Posted by col1234 at 13:56, 13 November 2011 | Report This Post

Would be good but...

Yeah would be a really great film... if Johnny Depp wasn't in it. He's played the same character ever since Pirates of the Caribbean came out and it's no longer annoying, more boring. Every time Depp was on screen (a fair chunk of the film funnily enough) I just wanted to slap him with a herring!!! ... More

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Posted by J_BUltimatum at 00:25, 12 November 2011 | Report This Post

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