As is immediately clear from the ridiculous hat that Johnny Depp’s character insists on wearing around the house, his latest movie “Crazy Dangerous Asshole” is a dark commentary about the worst elements of human nature (trailer is available here). Though the excellent set design appears to depict a well-appointed open-plan kitchen that would not look out of place in any McMansion, there is something deeply unsettling about the mise-en-scene that informs that this is no ordinary drama, but a terror ride into a phantasmagoric world. The fly-on-the-wall POV selected by the director only serves to heighten this discomforting insight.
As his character goes over to the same above-sink cabinet and slams it again and again, we ask ourselves if we are in a ‘No Exit’ scenario that Sartre would recognize, or is this kitchen perhaps in the same metaphorical house as Luis Buñuel’s legendary music room of ‘The Exterminating Angel’, where the guests and hosts alike are incapable of leaving even as they descend into a brutal atavistic existence. All of this and more is invoked by Depp’s latest cinematic vehicle, but it is surely the role of lead character ‘Crazy A’ that is the gem Depp has been seeking his whole career.
‘Crazy A’ seems to embody all that is weird and frightening about Depp’s previous idiosyncratic roles, but none of their redeeming qualities. It is a brave artistic choice for Depp to take on a character this horrifying – one could say he has finally found his Hannibal Lector or Nosferatu. The word in industry circles is that Depp went full method for the role of ‘Crazy A’, putting Jared Leto’s attempts to fully inhabit his character in Suicide Squad to shame. Leto has not tired of pointing out that he stayed in character as the Joker the whole time while on set, and that he also isolated himself from the rest of the cast and sent them disgusting presents like a dead hog and a live rat to establish authentic character dynamics.
For a consummate professional like Depp, however, this is not going nearly deep enough. Instead Depp chose to marry his co-star many months in advance of principle photography and wasted no time establishing the toxic relationship between their characters. But since any run-of-the-mill asshole can make a partner’s life miserable – even those that are not actors – Depp decided he needed to do something more extraordinary to define the larger-than-life persona of ‘Crazy A’. So he went ahead and pissed off a whole country, Australia, as well.
Time to move over, Brando.