October 23, 2015
This new decade had not been good to Johnny Depp. So far, the only one with positive feedback he got was for "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (2011), but that was an old character from a known successful franchise. But Depp's fate with stand-alone feature films he bannered was something else. It all started with a debacle called "The Tourist," (2010). This was followed by middling to poor reception for "The Rum Diary" (2011), "Dark Shadows" (2012), "The Lone Ranger" (2013), "Transcendence" (2014) and just earlier this year "Mortdecai".
In the poster of his latest film "Black Mass," we see a barely-recognizable bad-ass and balding Johnny Depp. You know he really means serious business this time. And he definitely did.
It is Boston in the 1970s. James "Whitey" Bulger was the kingpin of the Irish Mob. His childhood friend John Connolly was an agent in the Boston office of the FBI. Connolly reached out to Bulger to forge a sneaky under-the-table deal to trade information that would lead to the arrest of Boston's Italian Mafia. In exchange, Bulger would receive perks as an FBI informant. However, Bulger and gang went overboard unmitigated string of ruthless murders, drug dealing, gun-running and gambling such that the FBI could not just simply give them a pass anymore.
Based on his look in the poster alone, you can already see how Johnny Depp has transformed himself for this cold-blooded role as Jimmy Bulger. He was totally chilling whenever he talked with someone, you never knew if that person would be alive in the next scene or not. His scenes were very unsettling and heinous. You would be at the edge of your seat the whole time, like waiting for a lion to kill its unsuspecting victim. His "fatherly" conversations with his young son were very disturbing. No one could argue that this would be Depp's best work in several years.
Joel Edgerton is really on a roll with these effective portrayals of these characters with questionable morals. He can really get under your nerves in his role as John Connolly. Listening to him bend all the rules in trying to protect his friend will make you want to give him a punch to the face. You'll hate his guts when he was defending Bulger with his boss McGuire (Kevin Bacon). You'll love that precious look on his face when he was confronted by the new prosecutor, Wyshack (Corey Stoll).
Unexpectedly, the only member of the cast which I would call miscast was Benedict Cumberbatch in the role of Whitey's younger brother William. Billy was able to become a successful politician, winning the election for state Senate in spite of his brother's unsavory reputation in Boston. Despite his reputation for quality work for most of his career, Cumberbatch simply did not feel or even look right for this particular role.
Overall, this was a seriously sinister biographical film, not exactly the entertaining sort for most mainstream tastes. Johnny Depp's unusually scary portrayal of a despicable and ruthless killer is the centerpiece attraction of this film, and alone would make the price of admission worth it. 7/10.