Johnny Depp is playing a notorious, ye olde English, unpredictable drunk with who knows what diseases. Three years my foot; it only took them a year to dish out a sequel to "Pirates of the Caribbean". No, I'm kidding; this is really different from "Pirates", not just because we can completely confirm that Johnny Depp's character is straight, but because this is whole lot more disturbing than those kiddie films ever were. I mean, all that series had that was mildly discomforting were undead skeletons, shooting a monkey a couple of times, a lizard-headed monster eating someone's.. face off, the same lizard-headed monster... getting decapitated, a clean shot... to a woman's head, Davey Jones using his tentacles to... mutilate some guy in the head from the inside-out of every opening in his face, including eye sockets... Wow, those scenes really showed how sick "Disney" is, and yet none of those moments were quite as disturbing as the scene in "Dead Man's Chest", where a pirate outfit-wearing Keira Knightley was trying to seduce Jack Sparrow, and the filmmakers were actually expecting us to find her attractive. After I'm done with Charlton Heston's dated performance in "Planet of the Apes", Ms. Knightley's buck teeth are going to haunt my nightmares for a long, long time, unless the sick, depraved stuff that came out of Johnny Depp's mouth in this film don't mess with me first. Now, I am proud of this film for having the guts to tell the dirty truth about that time and I don't usually mind obscenities, unless of course, it's completely gratuitous, and boy howdy, just take a wild guess how necessary the content of this film is.
This opening credits are quiet, and subtle, until they are broken by Johnny Depp providing a prologue while drenched in a painting-like lighting, and right off the bat, you're expecting this film to be brilliant, all the way up until Johnny Depp talks about haunting your mind and self-pride during a certain post-film activity. Well, ladies and gentlemen, that's only the beginning, and sure enough, the film proceeds to deliver a relentless, virtually unstoppable barrage of disgustingly gratuitous filth, and that is much more of an understatement than anything. The barrage of gratuitous filth is not only exhausting, but inconsistent with this film's type of artistry and, above all else, its time, for although this kind of sick dialogue was as prominent then as it is now, it sure doesn't feel that way, not because of the screenplay, but because director Laurence Dunmore sets a tone that's too focused on the differences between then and now. That's just fine in any good formal period piece, but as you can easily figure out, this isn't all that formal, and because Dunmore's tone for the film is so time-focused, casualities feel all too much like anachronisms. Really, as much as I've complained about this film's obscene elements, it's not like the whole theme is completely inappropriate. In fact, this film's concept of audaciously exploring the highs and especially the lows of hedonism is a brilliant one, but the film is so relentlessly unsubtle and so unaware of its true intentions, that it just comes out as a messy piece of squandered potential. However, it's not like the film is bad, for although its flaws are consistent, what is just as consistent is its fine strengths that could have done wonders if this film was more consistent and tasteful, but still stands as this film's savior.
A consensus is a general agreement, and it would seem as though a general agreement about this film is that it's cinematography is a mess. True, it is a touch murky, as well as too artistic for themes this crude, but in spite of that, I'm calling bull on all of the critics that called this a failure visually, because this film looks stunning. Like "Barry Lyndon", the visual style is so vividly reminiscent to that of a painting of the time, only this time, there's more grit and bleakness in the tone, and although it fits the concept much more than the execution, it still thrusts you into the time. Heck, I'll go so far as to say that this cinematographer out-"Barry Lyndoned" "Barry Lyndon". Still, next to the style, as well as the lovely production designs, it's the performers that really carry this film, particularly our certain leading man. Man, Johnny Depp could be playing Vlad the Impaler, and you'd still like to hang out with him, because he always has such charisma and presence, and really knows how to manipulate that when he needs to. Here, like the cinematography, Depp contradicts the lack of subtlety in the director's execution by bringing subtlety and grace that may be diluted by the unsublte and disturbingly informal dialogue he's been given, but is never washed away, because Depp has such a natural leading man presence, and one strong enough to carry even the messiest of films like this, and turn it into something more around every corner, from its quiet beginning, to its admittedly great ending.
Overall, its inventive, brilliantly audacious concept finds itself squandered by relentless and gratuitously crude themes that render the film completely devoid of subtlety; and it certainly doesn't help that director Laurence Dunmore's overemphasis on the time leaves much should-be casual dialogue to feel misplaced; and yet, he still saves the film with his brilliantly artistic visual style that adds both grit and vividness that's too good for this film, much like Johnny Depp's typically fine lead performance that carries "The Libertine" to its position as a hit-or-miss, but still generally interesting portrait on the horrible consequences of hedonism.
2.5/5 - Fair