A movie starring Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Giovanni Ribisi, and Aaron Eckhart, written for the screen and directed by Bruce Robinson, and with a story originally written by Hunter S. Thompson should be a recipe for the type of film that would have critics falling all over themselves trying to come up with appropriate levels of praise and worship. As I sat down to watch this film I began to wonder if I would become intoxicated by the potent combination of ingredients, or would I look to add this to the multitude of mediocrity that floods the proverbial bottom shelf.
To put it bluntly I fell asleep...three times.
The downfall of this picture is how it just sort of floats along aimlessly through a vague story, but looks to have more of a focus on the drunken escapades of the main characters. While good for a few laughs and cheap thrills, this tactic does not allow for the story to develop in to the dramatically intense piece of work it deserves to be.
The actors also look confused about what exactly they are doing in this movie so they seem to either wander through the picture not quite sure of what is going on, or they put way too much in to their performance thinking it is much more serious than it turns out to be.
Johnny Depp in particular seems more confused than anything else in his portrayal of Paul Kemp, a writer who has come to mid 1950's Puerto Rico to take a newspaper job and hopefully escape his own failings back home. An aspiring novelist, he manages to fall in love with the girlfriend of a man who manipulates him in to a writing job for a business venture that falls outside the lines of proper business ethics and legalities.
There are obvious complications with both of these situations and you are lead along a path that sort of keeps the main story moving along but often gets sidetracked by bottles of rum, jugs of 400 proof alcohol, and even an unnamed drug that seems to be added in for the sole purpose of providing a few moments of comic relief that weren't really needed.
The love triangle between Paul, Chenault (Amber Heard), and Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) is more awkward than anything else and I found it hard to believe that Paul would fall for Chenault so quickly and is so distracted by her that the only thing that can pull his gaze away is a shot of rum or bottle of beer. There is a connection between the two, but it develops without any real effort from either person and Sanderson doesn't seem real fazed by the whole thing either.
Giovanni Ribisi's drugged out character Mobley seems to float in and out of the picture mainly to provide exposition when needed but is mostly just annoying and drags out an over acted performance. I can appreciate his level of commitment to the character and who he is supposed to be, but I just didn't like the end result. The one performance I did like was Michael Rispoli as Sala who becomes Paul's friend and guide as well as a constant facilitator of alcohol.
There really wasn't much to enjoy about this movie and it didn't make very much sense either. Maybe if I had consumed as much alcohol as Paul and Sala did, I might have enjoyed it more although I get the feeling that either way I still would have been rendered unconscious.