Thursday 10 November 2011

"The Rum Diary" (Scotsman 11/11/11)

The Rum Diary (15) ***
Directed by: Bruce Robinson
Starring: Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard

If we were to entrust anyone with filming Hunter S. Thompson’s early, semi-autobiographical novel – the tale of a writer losing his journalistic innocence in 1960s Puerto Rico – it’d surely be proven Gonzo nut Johnny Depp and writer-director Bruce Robinson, whose Withnail and I remains a gold-standard for cinematic drunkenry. Those expecting more Fear and Loathing… may, however, be disappointed: the intoxicant intake is low-to-middling, the narrative less a rambunctious romp than an episodic account of a country being sold off by its Yankee paymasters – a conspiracy in plain sight the film doesn’t quite know how to make interesting.

Robinson nevertheless finds plentiful local colour to divert us with, and he’s preserved Thompson’s roster of sweaty character parts, providing fun moments for Giovanni Ribisi as a Nazi-sympathising religious correspondent and Michael Rispoli as the hero’s rotund photographer sidekick. Depp, too, is on his best form for some while: leaner than he was in The Tourist, and displaying flickers of his pre-Pirates intelligence. It’s a smart, good-looking, respectful adaptation – if nothing else, proof Robinson deserves more directing work – but ironically just a bit too sober to truly excite.

The Rum Diary opens in cinemas nationwide today.

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