HollywoodChicago.com RSS   Facebook   HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter   Free Giveaway E-mail   

Johnny Depp is Ghoulish in Mob Saga ‘Black Mass’

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionE-mail page to friendE-mail page to friendPDF versionPDF version
Average: 5 (1 vote)
HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

CHICAGO – “Black Mass” is a well crafted, if somewhat conventional crime tale. It won’t win any awards, but it’s entertaining enough. The story of real life Boston crime boss “Whitey” Bulger has no shortage of juicy details, and while the saga of this mob boss slash FBI turncoat falls short of greatness, Johnny Depp turns him into an otherworldly presence.

With slicked back thinning hair, speckled teeth, skin that looks like it was prepped by a mortuary, and blue contact lenses, Depp goes all out and plays Bulger as a black hearted ghoul. It’s not entirely possible to forget it’s Johnny Depp up there on screen, but he gives one of his better performances in recent years.

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger in ‘Black Mass’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Joel Edgerton’s role isn’t as flashy as Depp’s, but he’s just as important. He plays an FBI agent who grew up a few doors down from the Bulger family. And he’s the one who convinces Bulger to turn state’s evidence to help the feds take down a common enemy, the Italian mob. Edgerton is a man caught in his own moral quicksand. He values loyalty, but he also wants to be a big shot and make a name for himself. And those two values aren’t always in harmony.

Edgerton is trying to play both sides, he wants to be a hero who also takes a cut for himself and does right by his friends, so he’s taking bribes from Bulger while hogging the glory after a tip helps them take down the Italian mob in Boston. Bulger meanwhile is using the FBI to clean out his competition for him, and he gets to basically take over Boston with no one around to stop him. As Bulger’s organization gets bigger, his last ties to normal family fade away and vanish, and Depp turns him into a man consumed by an endless capacity for evil. In some ways it’s a little refreshing to see a pure villain without a tortured backstory – meant to humanize them – but it makes him less of a compelling character.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Peter Saarsgard, Corey Stoll, and Adam Scott round out the cast and give fine performances all around. But the magic “X factor” that turns a good movie into a great one is missing, since there’s no gut wrenching human center.

Joel Edgerton, Johnny Depp
Joel Edgerton and Johnny Depp in ‘Black Mass’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Other than sprinkling a few testimonies from low level Bulger associates into the action, Director Scott Cooper mostly plays it straight, chronicling Bulger’s rise from small time hood to Ganglord in chronological order. Cooper’s not trying to do imitation Martin Scorsese. If anything he’s doing imitation Ben Affleck, trying to tap into the same Southie accents, gangs and themes of family and loyalty Affleck explored in “The Town.”

The pieces for a great crime movie are here, Scorsese struck Oscar gold when he made “The Departed” after all. This may not please those fans looking for more realism in their crime sagas, but for what it is “Black Mass” is still a pretty good trip to the ‘hood.

”Black Mass” opens everywhere on September 18th. Featuring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon, Corey Stoll, Adam Scott, Peter Saarsgard and Benedict Cumberbatch. Screenplay adapted by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth. Directed by Scott Cooper. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com contributor Spike Walters

By SPIKE WALTERS
Contributor
HollywoodChicago.com
spike@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2015 Spike Walters, HollywoodChicago.com

User Login

Free Giveaway Mailing

TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Stephanie Buxbaum

    CHICAGO – In the history of “Reality TV” there has been periods of up-and-down popularity, shows that have been around seemingly forever (“Big Brother,” “Amazing Race”) and spinoffs to new styles like “documentary series” as networks like the National Geographic Channel emerged. In all those permutations, producer Stephanie Buxbaum has experienced it all, and has the career and stories to prove it.

  • Deadbeat2

    CHICAGO – Not many web series start out as music videos, but the new online (YouTube) drama “Deadbeat 2” was just that. Created, written and directed by Danny Froze, the made-in-Chicago story recently premiered episodes five and six in the series, which features actor Kiwaun Stoutmire in the lead role of Ronnie.

Advertisement



HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter

archive

HollywoodChicago.com Top Ten Discussions
referendum
tracker