Johnny Depp’s production of Hunter S. Thompson’s semi-autobiographical novel is compellingly indulgent and a fascinating watch.


One morning I woke up after passing out in my bedroom. My guests had all left and I was surrounded by several cigarette packs and 10 rum bottles…However, 9½ of the bottles were still full, none of the cigarettes were smoked and my throat was terribly coarse from the small amount of rum I had ingested. This is the difference between me and the protagonist brilliantly portrayed by Johnny Depp in new release The Rum Diary. The main plot seems to be de-prioritised by protagonist Paul Kemp who, though very passionate about exploiting US corporations pauperising the region, is more passionate about self-intoxication with obscene quantities of rum.

The film follows a much more traditional narrative structure than Hunter S. Thomson’s previous hit Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas but similarly adopts a semi-autobiographical structure providing the audience with an insight into the time Thompson spent in Puerto Rico as a journalist. Though it is important to note that the film has been adapted for the screen by writer Bruce Robinson (Withnail and I) and is therefore not a completely accurate depiction of Thompson’s early years.

Despite the differences in structure, there are many similarities that can be drawn between The Rum Diary and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as there are many themes that are dominant on both. They are both obviously indulgent; I couldn’t help but think that inspiration was taken from ‘F&L’ in the scene which depicts Kemp and companion Sala (Michael Rispoli) taking ‘the strongest narcotic known to man’ via eye-drops. The hallucinogenic causes Kemp to panic after witnessing Sala’s tongue stretch out of his mouth like a dancing snake. 

The film hasn’t received the best reviews from the media which baffles me. As a fanatical film fan I found The Rum Diary gripping with impressive dialogue and inspiring performances from Depp, Aaron Eckhart playing the devious Sanderson and the beautiful Amber Heard playing a double-love interest in Chenault.

Kemp’s struggle through his conflicting moral views whilst maintaining he’s ridiculous drinking patterns makes for incredible psychological viewing. Depp’s charisma shines through as usual and it is clear that the actor was extremely passionate about his performance in order the honour the late Hunter S. Thompson as they were close personal friends. It is rumoured that on their first meeting the pair went on a three day bender culminating in them shooting cows in a field. If you haven’t already made a judgement based on ‘F&L’ hopefully this gives you an insight into the type of character that Hunter S. Thompson was. It is from his mind that The Rum Diary was created. Thrilling, indulgent and never predictable.