Sunday, November 22, 2015

REVIEW: Black Mass

Black Mass

Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton


September 18, 2015

Scott Cooper

Warner Bros. Pictures

2 hours 3 minutes



The main inspiration for Jack Nicholson's character in Martin Scorsese's "The Departed," Frank Costello, was famed Boston Irish-American gangster Whitey Bulger.  In the time since that film was released, there have been two films about the life of Bulger that have come to the silver screen.  The first was a documentary entitled "Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger," and the second one was a narrative feature from director Scott Cooper called "Black Mass."  The latter is what I'm here to talk about today.  "Black Mass" stars Johnny Depp as Bulger, and the film depicts how he became an informant for the FBI and soon began to use them to get to the top of the Italian Mafia.

People have been saying that this is Johnny Depp's "comeback" to good roles though I'd honestly disagree.  While his recent choices have either involved acting in Disney adaptations, playing absurd characters in either micro-budgeted indies or Tim Burton movies, and starring in some critically panned films, I don't think he necessarily "left."  Having said that, this is hands down the best work Depp has delivered since his portrayal of "Sweeney Todd."  His green contacts get distracting at times, but other than that Depp loses himself as Bulger and plays this sadistic gangster madman with grace and menace.  The rest of the cast as a whole is very good though one performance I'm going to address is Joel Edgerton's as FBI agent John Connolly.

Edgerton is a great actor, and maybe an even better writer/director, as shown in his work on "The Gift."  Looking back on this movie and the performance he gives in it, though, there are problems present.  His performance overall is not bad, and I don't blame what I'm going to be criticizing entirely on him.  First off, the Boston accent Edgerton uses throughout the movie felt forced and exaggerated.   The second big problem I have with Edgerton, and this I'm mostly going to be blaming on the writing, is that his dialogue gets repetitive.  In fact, his dialogue gets so repetitive to the point where you can make a drinking game out of every time he references how he and the Bulger brothers grew up together and are from "Southie."  The third problem I had with him, and this could be blamed more on the director, is that his character became too much of an annoying and whiny baby when it came to talking to other characters about seeing the current predicaments happening his way.  Joel Edgerton gives a fine performance, but the material and direction given to him made it hard to take him seriously 100% of the time.

Other than what I had to say about Edgerton's character, I honestly have nothing else negative to say about "Black Mass."  Johnny Depp gives one hell of an amazing performance and makes the movie his playground.  Everyone else does a fine job, and the story that they're in is very interesting to watch.  There are some bits of dialogue that don't hit as hard as others, but the screenplay as a whole it pretty top notch.  I haven't seen any of Scott Cooper's other films, but I could tell here that he understood how to make a striking and flowing gangster biopic.  I doubt this will go down as one of the best gangster films of the modern era, but "Black Mass" is undeniably a strong and engaging movie that flows smoothly and never bores.


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