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Bruce Robinson
Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Rispoli, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi, Amaury Nolasco
Writing Credits:
Bruce Robinson, Hunter S. Thompson (novel)

One part outrage. One part justice. Three parts rum. Mix well.

Based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary, follows itinerant journalist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) on an alcohol-fueled journey across the pristine island of Puerto Rico. Adopting the rum-soaked life of the island, Paul soon becomes obsessed with Chenault (Amber Heard) the wildly attractive fiancée of Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), an American businessman involved in shady development deals. When Kemp is recruited by Sanderson to write favorably about his latest unsavory scheme, the journalist is presented with a choice: to use his words for the corrupt businessman’s financial benefit or use them to take him down.

Box Office:
$45 million.
Opening Weekend
$5.135 million on 2272 screens.
Domestic Gross
$13.100 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 2/14/2012

• “A Voice Made of Ink and Rage” Featurette
• “The Rum Diary Back Story” Featurette
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Rum Diary [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 26, 2012)

13 years after Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Johnny Depp plays Hunter S. Thompson again – sort of. Based on Thompson’s novel, 2011’s The Rum Diary casts Depp as journalist Paul Kemp, a character with a more than passing resemblance to the author himself.

Set in 1960, Kemp heads to Puerto Rico to spark his writing career. He’s penned a couple of unpublished novels so he signs on to work for a failing Puerto Rico newspaper just to get some experience. He finds a motley crew there and gets assignments for puff pieces to promote tourism. Kemp finds himself torn between these guidelines and his greater journalistic desire to tell the truth about the seedier side of life on the island. He also drinks a whole lot.

Without Depp on board, it seems highly unlikely that Diary ever would’ve been made into a film. Heck, it barely managed to emerge as a novel. Though Thompson developed the book back in the era featured, it didn’t get published until 1998. At that point, he was enough of a legend that anything he wrote would find an audience.

Would it have seen a release as novel with another writer’s name on it? Probably not, and I also suspect that without Depp’s imprimatur, we wouldn’t have this film. Though it offers some minor pleasures, Diary lacks many elements to make it special or memorable.

This doesn’t mean it fails to entertain. Diary throws enough at the wall that some of it sticks, and Depp seems solid as usual. Granted, the 48-year-old Depp is much too old for the role of the 30-year-old Kemp; while Depp looks much younger than his age, he still seems a little long in the tooth to play a guy still finding his way in life and career.

Nonetheless, Depp’s fine in the part, so his age doesn’t become a factor. The flick comes with a nice supporting cast as well, with work from Richard Jenkins, Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi and others to bolster the material; even with underwritten roles, they add some weight to the proceedings.

But only so much weight, as the movie’s inherent flimsiness causes problems. The main issue comes from the disjointed narrative. Diary can’t decide if it wants to focus on the locals, the corruption, the wacky reporters or the sexy girl Paul desires. A better-constructed flick might be able to balance all of these areas, but Diary can’t. It tends to skitter from one to another without much clarity.

That kind of structure would probably work fine in a novel, especially one written from Thompson’s skewed viewpoint. But in a movie, the elements don’t flow, particularly since Diary seems surprisingly reluctant to embrace the usual Thompson sensibility. The whole enterprise feels oddly restrained and without much to mark it as the work of “Dr. Gonzo”.

Granted, I suspect that the novel itself wasn’t nearly as “Gonzo” as Thompson’s better known later work, but I’d assume some of his trademarks exist in it. Though those occasionally creep into Diary, they’re rare, and the film tends to seem staid and standard. There’s a nod or two toward the Thompson sensibility, but in truth, Diary could’ve been written by almost anyone, as it usually comes across as a straight depiction of events.

Again, that doesn’t make it bad, and I certainly didn’t expect anything as wild as Fear and Loathing, but Diary simply lacks the juice to make it more compelling. As it stands, the film keeps us moderately occupied for two hours and then it ends.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus C

The Rum Diary appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. For the most part, the transfer looked quite good.

Sharpness was usually solid. A few interiors seemed a bit soft, but those weren’t severe instances. The movie usually appeared well-defined and concise. No signs of jaggies or moiré effects occurred, and I also witnessed no edge enhancement. Source flaws remained absent.

With its Caribbean setting, the palette went for a light, sun-dappled look. The colors probably could’ve been a little brighter, but then they wouldn’t have suited the story very well. As it stood, the tones seemed well-rendered within the production design. Blacks came across as dark and deep, while shadows were clear and smooth. Except for the mild softness, I felt pleased with this transfer.

Little about the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack dazzled, but it worked just fine. Much of the soundscape concentrated on general island ambience, with waves and the like. A few surreal sequences – like a shot of bowling pins replaced by shattered rum bottles – occurred, and those provided greater impact. Most of the mix was fairly subdued and naturalistic, though; the soundfield seemed satisfying in any case.

Audio was positive. Dialogue quality was always solid, as the material appeared concise and crisp. Effects showed nice clarity and accuracy, and the score provided good range and depth. This was a more than adequate soundtrack for a character-based movie.

A couple of featurettes pop up here. A Voice Made of Ink and Rage goes for 12 minutes, 39 seconds and includes comments from co-producer/1st AD Peter Kohn, producer Graham King, writer/director Bruce Robinson, executive producer/UPM Patrick McCormick, production designer Chris Seagers, director of photography Dariusz Wolski, costume designer Colleen Atwood, and actors Johnny Depp, Michael Rispoli, Amber Heard, Marshall Bell, Richard Jenkins, Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi, and Bill Smitrovich. The piece covers aspects of the novel and story, its adaptation and what Robinson brought to the project, production design and period details, cinematography and costumes, sets and locations, and other thoughts.

“Voice” provides a fairly standard “making of” featurette. It covers a lot of topics in a brisk manner, so don’t expect much detail. Still, it comes with ample footage from the set and includes just enough information to make it worthwhile.

The Rum Diary Back Story lasts 45 minutes, 56 seconds and takes us back to 1998. There we see the unearthing of the novel as well as its attempt at a movie adaptation via comments from Depp, author Hunter S. Thompson, historian Douglas Brinkley, journalist Curtis Robinson, editor Marysue Rucci, and Intermedia’s Nigel Sinclair. (Though much of the material comes from the late 1990s, we also get more recent info from some of the participants.)

“Back Story” doesn’t deliver the most concise look at the novel’s publishing and the film adaptation, mostly because it indulges in too much fairly forgettable candid footage. Nonetheless, it’s good to see Thompson himself, and we learn enough about the relevant issues to turn this into an interesting piece.

The disc opens with ads for London Boulevard, In the Land of Blood and Honey, Drive, Tonight I’m Yours, and Retreat. These also appear under Previews. No trailer for Diary shows up here.

Based on a “long lost” novel from Hunter S.Thompson, The Rum Diary seems unlikely to dazzle the author’s fans. Actually, I’m not sure what audience will dive into this film, as it’s too thin to really succeed; while it can be moderately entertaining, it just never goes anywhere and it lacks the energy to give us a fun ride. The Blu-ray delivers good picture and audio along with a couple of moderately useful supplements. Hunter S. Thompson fans might like this flick, but I don’t think it delivers a lot of interest.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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