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Paying homage to Hunter S Thompson, the eccentric kingpin of Gonzo journalism, The Rum Diary offers a likeable line in old-school hedonism and ripping yarns.

But a rambling focus means it lacks the urgency and balls-to-the-wall commitment that characterises the Good Doctor’s best work.

Booze-worn journalist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) arrives in Puerto Rico to start a new job on an ailing English-language rag, The San Juan Star. Falling in with a cast of oddballs and arseholes, wheeler-dealers and dangerous women, Kemp fights corruption – after initially abetting it – and drinks heroically throughout. At its best, The Rum Diary is enjoyably chaotic – there are cockfights, car chases and a hermaphrodite voodoo witch-doctor. It is also, at times, beautifully atmospheric – vibrant Carnival scenes, glorious coastal vistas, old journos drinking in beach-side bars until relentless tropical rains roll in. It’s all great fun – eminently watchable, stylishly shot and accompanied by a cracking soundtrack.  At one point, though, Kemp laments, “I’ve got no voice – I don’t know how to write like me”.

The film suffers a similar listlessness, failing to settle into a story it wants to truly inhabit. Its early episodic structure infuses The Rum Diary with a sense of adventure but bleeds it of momentum; much of the set-up proves tangential when the film is left groping for a satisfying resolution – Amber Heard’s smoking-hot female lead, for example, is jettisoned two-thirds through and Aaron Eckhart’s shady property developer simply wanders back to his beach-house, never to be seen again.

Good for: Those who like style with their substances.

3/5

Starring: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Michael Rispoli | 15 | 120 mins

Read our interview with Amber Heard.



Also out this week


Wuthering Heights

Starring: Kaya Scodelario, James Howson, Nichola Burley | 15 | 129mins 

Must we really revisit Bronte’s gothic classic, charting the romantic peaks and troughs of moody misanthrope Heathcliff and Cathy, his hysterical moo of a girlfriend? Director Andrea Arnold has at least shaken things up by casting a black actor to play ‘Cliff. But is it a serious attempt to add a new dimension to the narrative? Either way, expect plenty of undying passion and windswept moors.

On general release

Black Pond
Starring: Chris Langham, Simon Amstell
TBC | 83mins 

In from the wilderness after being convicted of possessing child pornography, disgraced The Thick of It actor Langham resurrects his career with this existential comedy-drama. It tells the story of a run-of-the-mill family accused of murder after a stranger dies at their dinner table.

On general release


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The Rum Diary - film review + trailer
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