Friday, 6 January 2012

The Rum Diary

It may not be to everyone’s taste but, for me, the triumvirate of Hunter S Thompson, Bruce Robinson and Johnny Depp could only mean gold. NB: If you’re expecting something along the lines of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas you might be disappointed. Without the psychedelic spills 'n thrills this is less-crazed, more pared-down and has no narcotics. (Well, almost.) But if Fear and Loathing and Withnail and I had a lovechild it might look something like this.

It is 1960 and Hunter S Thompson alter ego, Paul Kemp (Depp) travels to Puerto Rico to write at the San Juan Star. There he shares a scuzzy apartment with photographer Bob Sala (Michael Rispoli) who, like Kemp, is fond of a drink. And by that I mean, raging alcoholic. (It seems everyone at the paper is.) The titular rum flows like water and makes them all a little mad, bad and dangerous. He hooks up with shady businessman Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) and is recruited to write promotional blurb for his island development. As he gets in deep with Sanderson he also gets closer to the man’s girlfriend (Amber Heard).

Having last directed (ill-fated serial killer flick, Jennifer Eight) in 1992 it’s a helluva comeback for Bruce Robinson. The workmanlike direction makes it hard to believe he’s ever been away. Robinson’s work, certainly in the case of Withnail and I, mirrors Thompson’s in it’s blurring of truth and reality. He was the ideal candidate to make this film. He also knows a thing or two about drinking.

Johnny Depp is basically doing his Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing – but down a notch - since both characters basically are Thompson. And boy, he does it so well. He is so damn funny in this film. His voice is spot on, and it’s a weird voice. Nobody ever spoke like Hunter. It can’t be easy to deliver lines. Everything that does come out of his mouth is either loaded for effect or weighted with deep significance. And the script is beautiful. Robinson masterfully adapted it for the screen utilising so many killer lines in a way that doesn’t ever feel shoe-horned in. No surprise really – like Thompson, Robinson was born to write. Let’s not forget his script for The Killing Fields was Oscar-nominated.

Thompson may currently be firing off a few rounds with Hemingway, he might be arguing with Nixon, or perhaps he’s working with God, developing a super strain of Adrenochrome. Wherever the hell he is, I like to think he would be duly impressed and give his blessing to this cinematic gem.

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