First Hit: This film started strong and fully engaged me, but started falling apart in the middle and by the end it was definitely time to go.
My guess is that this film was a way to honor Hunter S. Thompson who wrote the novel from which the screenplay is based. I did wonder if this story and film were a way to reflect Thompson’s real or imagined escapades.
Having read most of Thompson’s stories and stories about Thompson; Johnny Depp played Kemp (story’s main character) much like Thompson (his real life friend) himself.
The film traces Kemp arriving in Puerto Rico to take a job at the local paper. He’s looking for a place to land and to find a career. The paper is being run by Lotterman (played by Richard Jenkins), a crusty old guy with a bad toupee who is halfway attempting to save the paper. Kemp learns early that he’s the only semi-sane reporter on staff as the other prime reporter Moburg (played by Giovanni Ribisi) is perpetually high on something but mostly rum.
Kemp gets courted to write positive words about a team of people, led by Sanderson (played by Aaron Eckhart), who are attempting to build hotels on an island owned by the US Government. Sanderson, has a girlfriend named Chenault (played by Amber Heard) whom Kemp falls in love with.
The longer the film goes the more it meanders. Half way through the film, I was left wondering what the point would be in the end. At the end, I didn’t care what the point was.
Depp did a good impression of Thompson for about ¾ of the film but lost the film lost it point the longer it went. Jenkins was good as the old newspaper guy who didn’t care much. Ribisi was very good as the perpetually high reporter who never went to work. Eckhart was strong as the sleazy guy who thinks he can get anyone to do what he wants. Heard was sweet and sultry as “the girl”. Bruce Robinson wrote this meandering screenplay and directed it the same way.
Overall: I had high hopes for this film and they faded by the middle of its 2 hour presentation.