It would be nigh-on-impossible to remember a time before Depp could do no wrong. Over recent years, he has gone from strength to strength with only Pitt or Clooney matching him for diversity and memorable performances.
Now, take that and then hook him up with the director of Withnail & I and the lesser known but equally bonkers How To Get Ahead In Advertising and what do you get?....
What you don't get is Depp all Captain Jack shouting "where has all the rum gone?" for 119 minutes (which would so be worth the admission price!) but instead a less flamboyant but still mesmerising performance that induces smiles everytime he's upon the screen.
His journalist "out of depth and out of sorts" in 60's Puerto Rico is introduced in a wonderful blur of drinking that leaves him a day late for his new job and a trashed-but-unopened mini bar on his hotel room floor - this is a character that Depp could do in his sleep but there's no phoning it in here from him.
For those who yearn for, or prefer, structure to their viewing, you may find The Rum Diary hard to engage with. Like it's central character, the thin-on-the-ground plot moves its merry way across the land, bouncing off of and frequently drunkenly interacting with the locals with no real rhyme or reason. In that respect it's very similar to Withnail.. except the holiday plot device is replaced with a shady holiday destination deal that Depp's reporter is brought in on.
The rare meat on the bones story of shady deals introduces the other known actors of Eckhart (perfect body, fake smile) and Heard (even more perfect body and playfulness) but despite their solid performances, it's truly a case of "Here's Johnny!" Amongst the sharp wit and tangy one-liners, director/writer Robinson shows that despite his near 19 year absence from behind the camera, he still hasn't lost it. The car chase is absurdly sublime with one of the worst cars ever to be involved in a chase and an inventive use of alcohol thrown in for good measure to boot!
More coherent than its counterpart, Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas, The Rum Diary matches the lead character at that time of his life where there is much confusion but no hallucination as the trail of alcohol is the only path being walked upon and not that too excessively... yet. Crazy film, crazy fun with Depp delivering another crazy (if not truly classic) character.
UK release date: 11.11.11