The film, Rum Diary directed by Bruce Robinson portrays a screenplay adaption of the autobiographical novel by legendary late author Hunter S. Thompson when a reporter reaches a turning point in his life, he escapes to try and find himself in the Caribbean.
Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp), a hard drinking freelance journalist faces many challenges as he attempts to find his voice on his self-destructive path while working for a local run-down newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1960.
After the New York madness of politics with the late Dwight Eisenhower era ending and Richard Nixon campaign emerging in America, Kemp fits into this sunny and pristine island paradise. Along the way, Kemp befriends a photographer at the San Juan Star , Sala (Michael Rispoli) who accompanies him on his many adventures. He also Kemp seduces Chenault (Amber Heard), a wildly attractive Connecticut born blonde who is the fiancée of Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). Yet, Sanderson is an American real estate entrepreneur desperately determined to convert and despoil Puerto Rico into a capitalist hotel paradise.
Spending time on the impoverished island, Kemp is recruited by Sanderson to write about his plan. Over time, they develop a friendship in which Kemp realizes the scheme of corruption and is faced with a decision which helps him to discover moral fiber. Soon enough, Kemp notices that they are all bastards including his hard-lined, bewigged and bullying editor-in-chief, Lotterman (Richard Jenkins).
Absolutely nothing in this film is done in moderation, the performances are spectacular in the mix of genres including action/adventure, comedy, drama, romance and thriller. For 120 minutes, one begins to understand what gonzo journalism represents. Production companies, GK Films, Infinitum Nifil (Depp’s production company) and Film Engine compiled a film of brief drug use and sexuality which maintains the relationships among the characters.
Kemp’s odd friendship with Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi), a drunken drug addict religious correspondent who balances the craziness with the rational in contributing to the great moments and witty lines such as ‘Your tongue is like an accusatory giblet.’ The film transcends into a psychedelic realm of possibilities with masked anger, fast cars, being menaced by locals in bars, smoking, getting high, drinking rum and being consumed by fear.
Towards the end, Kemp makes a choice after struggling to find his voice in this labor of love. As Thompson’s alter-ego, Depp conveys a powerful message to this strange capitalist driven world: “I’m putting the bastards on notice with a voice of ink and rage.”