FILM REVIEW - BLACK MASS
Directed by Scott Cooper.
Starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch.
Depp is utterly terrifying.
Johnny Depp can’t resist another dip into the dress-up box for this Boston crime drama, but the results are far more impressive than any of his recent output would lead us to expect.
Black Mass spans the 25 year-period when James “Whitey” Bulger (Depp) headed the notorious Winter Hill gang. Beginning in 1975, Bulger forges a mutually beneficial alliance with his childhood friend and FBI agent James Connolly (Joel Edgerton), whereby Bulger feeds information on rival gangs to the FBI, and in return his illegal activities are overlooked. Bulger takes out his competition and Connolly gets promoted, but there’s trouble ahead, naturally.
Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) finds some inventive ways of presenting shots and transitions with a creative flair that keeps things interesting.
There is however a noticeable slump in the final act. The factual basis of the material often ties the film down and prevents it from realising the dramatic potential of The Departed or The Town.
It must be said that as Bulger’s powerful diplomat brother, Benedict Cumberbatch fails to convincingly pahk his cah in hahvahd yahd, but the rest of the supporting cast (including Kevin Bacon and Jesse Plemons) are terrific. Besides, this is Johnny’s gig, and he is utterly terrifying. He brings an unpredictable, savage intensity to the role that is mesmerising. It’s a pleasant surprise to see Depp acting again, because he’s rather good at it. With sequels to Alice in Wonderland and Pirates of the Caribbean on the horizon, perhaps we shouldn’t get used to the idea.