Rolling Stone - 12/01/2005 3.5 stars out of 4 -- "This one-of-a-kind spellbinder from first-time director Laurence Dunmore is not afraid to shock. Depp is a raunchy wonder..."
Total Film - 07/01/2006
"Laurence Dunmore's debut is stylish and murky, with Depp's charming rogue lighting up the gloom."
Entertainment Weekly - 06/30/2006
"A must for fans of Depp and overreaching period cinema..."
An antidote to the sunny period pieces adopted from Jane Austen, which feature impeccably coiffed aristocracy engage in the witty banter of drawing room dramas and culminate in a most delightful denouement, THE LIBERTINE highlights the underbelly of the Britocracy of centuries past. Adapted from the play by Stephen Jeffreys, the plot follows the dastardly debauchery of the Earl of Rochester (a mischievous Johnny Depp). A hedonist who makes Oscar Wilde seem moralistic, the Earl spent his days and nights in beds, brothels, and bars, awakening from drunken blackouts only to stumble to the nearest whorehouse. Yet this ravishing rake was also possessed of a predilection for poetry, and turned his escapades into acid-tongued witticisms that pepper this frisky film.
Directed by first-timer Laurence Dunmore, the historical film picks up in 1678, when the Earl returns to London at the behest of King Charles II (magnetically played by John Malkovich, who starred in the play when it was staged at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre). With his young wife in tow, our rake immediately immerses himself into a litany of transgressions. When he meets a prostitute and burgeoning actress named Elizabeth Barry (Samantha Morton), he obsessively takes her under his wing, crafting her into an acclaimed stage starlet and eventually bedding her. What follows is a spiral--upward, downward, and sideways--through the city's pleasure palaces, culminating in a quasi-tragic, quasi-relieving denouement. Melding the naughty energy of his PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN character with the brooding darkness of his wearied detective in FROM HELL, Depp gives a pitch-perfect performance that carries the film, eliciting strange sympathy for such a despicable devil. The score, by the award-winning composer Michael Nyman, adds even further moodiness and dramatic edge to the story.