To his credit, "The Rum Diary" is a project that Johnny Depp discovered at his friend, Hunter Thompson's house and vowed to bring to the screen. It was a pet project for Depp.


He had the book published and, after sitting on the shelves for many years, finally brought it to the big screen even after Thompson took his own life in 2005 in the same Woody Creek home where Depp discovered the manuscript.


Much like his previous work, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", "The Rum Diary" involves a great deal of intoxication and carousing. The storyline only adds to the confusing narrative, which is rather rambling. However, unlike "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (which was directed by Monte Python alum Terry Gilliam) director Bruce Robinson didn't have a grasp of conveying the adaptation. That may be a testament to the whole Monty Python thing, but Hunter's ramblings com across as... ramblings in "The Rum Diary" whereas there was almost a story with "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (which also starred Depp).

Nevertheless, Depp does his best Captain Jack Sparrow imitation in a 1950s setting playing Paul Kemp. Kemp is a drunken journalist - the way journalist were portrayed up til the 1980s - from New York who seeks to leave the hustle and bustle of city life.


So, he chooses to fly off to Puerto Rico where he can chill in the sun, drink rum concoctions and hopefully write. He lands a job at a local newspaper, The San Juan Star. That is the same name of the paper for which Hunter Thompson wrote for when he lived in Puerto Rico. "The Rum Diary" is semi-autobiographical.


While working for the paper with his tarnished credentials, Kemp falls in with and later becomes roommates with a photographer Sala (Michael Rispoli) who shares Kemps passion for booze.


The two become drinking buddies while Kemp writes meaningless story after meaningless story for the failing newspaper. That is until he meets Chenault (Amber Heard) who happens to be the fiance of American businessman Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). Sanderson is part of the encroaching US businesses looking to transform the backwater Puerto Rico into a cash cow.

Sanderson is interested in developing a pristine portion of Puerto Rico's beachfront into a hotel complex and wants Kemp to write favorable about it. Kemp is hesitant at first, but after Sanderson gets him out of legal trouble, he becomes indebted to Sanderson.


It is during the working relationship that Kemp falls for Chenault. Things go b=pretty nuts when a drunken become quite provocative during Carnival and things go crazy leading Kemp to fall in with another journalist Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi) who turns him on to some drugs.


While drug crazed, Kemp writes a scathing article on corrupt business practices of Sanderson when he learns that the paper has been shut down. Undeterred he attempts to raise money to print one final edition of the paper just so he can run the story to expose Sanderson. That is the gist of the story.


At it's best "The Rum Diary" is a well acted jumble of barely connected scenes. Depp and Eckhart do the best the can with their characters - as do Ribisi and Rispoli. The problem here is the story itself.


It is just not cohesive; not clear. It would be difficult to say if it would have been better had Terry Gilliam had the reigns, but clearly Bruce Robinson was the wrong choice. His last film was 1992s "Jennifer Eight".


"The Rum Diary" is what happens when a pet project goes bad. It's nice that Johnny Depp fulfilled his promise to see the project completely through, it's just too bad it wasn't good.   -- GEOFF BURTON