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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Rum Diary’: Equal parts Hunter Thompson, Johnny Depp, and awesome


    If there’s a time to share a toast, it’s now.

    Another one of the late Hunter S. Thompson’s novels, “The Rum Diary,” has made it to the big screen. Without a doubt, it’s right up in the ranks with “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas,” which was the only other one of Thompson’s novels to hit the theaters. With a manuscript dug out of the Good Doctor’s own basement by actor Johnny Depp, it’s safe to go to this film with high expectations.

    The story follows Paul Kemp, an American freelance journalist, into the world of the San Juan Star, a failing newspaper in 1950s Puerto Rico. First, we’re shown the world of the tourists: planes, gigantic resorts, drunken nights and plenty of tan women.

    In fact, Paul Kemp’s quote in the movie seems to speak to the heart of the entire piece: “I put the bastards of this world on notice that I do not have their best interests at heart. I will try and speak for my reader. That is my promise, and it will be a voice of ink and rage.”

    If you’ve ever read Thompson, you’ll know he’s always had a knack for pointing out the illusory nature of the American Dream in his writing. His ability to find nobility among the freaky people steams up from the ink on every page. The movie interpretations are no exception, as Kemp sets out to find his voice in writing, to bring real news to a corrupt paper and to bring justice to the greedy bastards who are polluting Puerto Rico and nearby islands with hotels and bowling alleys.

    As the movie goes on, we meet the psychotic editor in chief, Lotterman (Richard Jenkins), greasy scumbags like Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) and an uneasy society that demands justice.

    In this world, tourists are convinced that the hotels are the real Puerto Rican scene. But Kemp, as he immerses himself into a number of crowds, finds that the world is not so simple outside of the hotel room. And despite Kemp’s pleading, Lotterman refuses to print any stories about “the losers.” In a newspaper full of alcoholic freaks, Lotterman is not a popular editor in chief.

    As for the acting, one couldn’t ask for more. Despite his dive into Tim Burton’s cartoon fantasies, Johnny Depp plays the perfect Kemp: He’s eccentric, charming, heroic and dangerous. Oh yeah, and he’s drunk or hung over the entire time. Kemp is, at a basic level, a young Thompson. And Depp’s portrayal of this young Thompson — his voice, his style, his drunken swagger — is pleasingly flawless.

    By far, this is one of the best films of the year. With exciting and drunken action, plenty of dark humor and the overarching disillusionment from the American Dream, “The Rum Diary” inspires its audiences, and reminds us that we’re living in the wake of a terrible, corrupt time.

    GRADE: A

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