When someone has a successful career, film makers tend to mine every aspect of the person’s life in hopes of discovering some pivotal moment to enlighten and inform the viewer. Here, the successful career is that of controversial journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and sadly, this particular period of his life—a period he felt so significant he wrote the source material—is at best underwhelming.
Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) has just arrived in Puerto Rico to begin a new job as a reporter for the San Juan Star. Already with a drinking habit he describes as at “the upper end of social,” he quickly becomes enamored with the rum-soaked lifestyle, drinking almost constantly. Meanwhile, his editor’s refusal to print anything controversial that would taint the illusion to tourists that Puerto Rico is anything but paradise, frustrates Paul to no end. When he is approached by a crooked real estate developer named Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) and his siren girlfriend, Chenault (Amber Heard), he becomes more determined than ever to find his voice as a writer.
In the end, this movie quite simply runs out of gas. They set the audience up for the big stick-it-to-the-man moment that just never happens. More problematic than that, however, is the near Leaving Las Vegas level of drinking that leaves you wondering how any of them lived through it. It’s not funny, it’s amusing. It’s not poignant, it’s arguably touching. It’s not gripping, it’s interesting. It’s not a 6, it’s a 5.