Hunter S. Thompson is credited with being one of the most influential journalists of his time. In 1960, he travelled from New York to Puerto Rico to work for a second-rate sports paper after being passed up for a position with the island’s larger daily. He wound up befriending many of the paper’s staff and it was this experience that provided the basis of his early novel, The Rum Diary, which director Bruce Robinson has adapted for the big screen.
The Rum Diary tells the story of Paul Kemp, played by Johnny Depp. Exhausted by his failed career as a novelist in New York and the madness of Eisenhower-era America, he moves to San Juan, Puerto Rico to take up a job working for the local English newspaper, The San Juan Star. Although the paper is barely able to stay afloat, Kemp lands the position — one that no one else even applied for — and is assigned to doing horoscopes and rewrites.
Between his booze-ridden exploits, Kemp manages to fall into the company of Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), a shady American entrepreneur looking to cash in on Puerto Rico’s prime real estate by building an island resort. Sanderson signs Kemp up to write up some cleverly placed articles about their scheme. While Kemp realizes he may be making a mistake, his morals are swayed by a fancy new car, a $500 cash advance, and Sanderson’s young free-spirited fiancée Chenault (Amber Heard), whom Kemp becomes increasingly infatuated by. With the newspaper sinking fast, Kemp is faced with the biggest decision of his career — sell out to Sanderson’s corrupt but lucrative business ventures, or use his insider status to reveal all the dirty secrets of San Juan’s many expats.
The Rum Diary warrants some mentionable performances, particularly Depp’s portrayal of an alcoholic-turned-renegade journalist and Heard in the role of the seductive female lead. These, paired with the script’s subtle touch of humor, not to mention the beautiful backdrop of the Puerto Rican landscape and culture, make for an entertaining look inside the life of the renowned Hunter S. Thompson himself. The film also stars Giovanni Ribisi, Richard Jenkins, and Michael Rispoli in supporting roles. The Rum Diary is available starting today (February 14) on DVD and Blu-ray. Special features on the disc include cast and crew soundbites as well as exclusive B-Roll footage. ~Soriyya Bawa