The Rum Diary - Blu-ray Review

'lurches from the near-absurd to the politically savvy at an alarming rate'

For a film that starts off with a hungover, red-eyed Johnny Depp, waking up in 1960 Puerto Rico, The Rum Diary really needed to deliver a lot more on its not insubstantial promise. Like a rum that hasn't been matured for long enough, Bruce Robinson's film is a bit too sweet for long stretches of its opening hour or so, only finding the bitter sting of well-brewed strong alcohol come the closing twenty minutes.

This unbalanced tone knocks the film off-kilter more than a few times. Depp wanders drunkenly down a beach one minute - either purposefully calling to mind Captain Jack or bumping into him by happenstance - and then rails against the 'bastards' of this world the next, in the flowery prose of Robinson merged with Hunter S. Thompson's original work. It all means that The Rum Diary lurches from the near-absurd to the politically savvy at an alarming rate. Even during the finale, when Robinson finds the right note of bittersweetness, Depp, plus cohorts Michael Rispoli and Giovanni Ribisi, is involved in a money-making scheme lifted straight from the minds of Larry, Curly and Moe.

Some things from Robinson's film do engage throughout. The locations are stunning, 1960s Puerto Rico vividly brought to life with a mixture of down-and-out alcoholic-sous and sunset-gorged soft focus. The depraved comedy too, which must form a vast portion of the reasoning behind recruiting Withnail & I director Robinson is spot-on, from the fire-breathing sequence to the film's own version of a police chase.

All of this though feels somewhat circumstantial; surface level goodness in a film desperately lacking a gut punch or two, or some structured method behind the madness. The Rum Diary ends up feeling like a film of compromises; half political theory, without the politics, half extrovert comedy, with too few jokes. Sadly average.

Look further...

'It all amounts to a lot of meandering moments and conversations that ultimately bring Depp absolutely nowhere' - Black Sheep Reviews


  1. Watched this over the weekend and I really enjoyed it. Don't know especially much about Hunter s Thompson but a theory I came up with while watching was that the film does sashay (purposefully, I feel) from ludicrous to more serious moments but it finds its voice/focus, much like Depp's Kemp, as it goes on.

    An eccentric film to say the least

    1. I really wanted to like it. Was genuinely excited to get home on Friday and put it in the disc drive but it just didn't grab me as much as I needed it to. Can certainly see the theory that, like Kemp, it finds it voice as it goes on but, if that's what they were going for, I think it's flawed at inception. It needed a bit more substance in the knockabout opening third or so.