Saturday, September 19, 2015

Movie Review #311: "Black Mass" (2015)

Movie"Black Mass"
Ticket Price: $7.00
Director: Scott Cooper
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 2 minutes
Image Source
A look back at the life and crimes of low-level thug James "Whitey" Bulger (Johnny Depp) and his rise to becoming one of the FBI's most wanted, one of the biggest gangsters in history, and an Irish mob kingpin. Bulger's life from the mid-70's to the mid-90's is examined as told in a series of flashbacks from those informing on him at a future time.

Johnny Depp, the actor who never left Hollywood and is somehow making a comeback. The film "Black Mass" has been highly anticipated, especially for those who are fans of pictures based on true stories, and those of who are lovers of true crime films. After leaving the project only to return some time later, Depp takes on the brunt of the project by portraying Bulger, one of the biggest names in organized crime in America, a gangster, and a murderer. The story of James "Whitey" Bulger is an insane and intense one filled with corruption, intrigue, backstabbing, ratting, and of course, murder. There are a lot of scary movies out there, and they will no doubt pop up more and more as we close in on October, but no monsters, demons, or ghosts are as terrifying as the reality of a man like Whitey Bulger. This is the most compelling performance from Johnny Depp since "Blow," which was all the way back in 2001, and though he has been good in other roles after this time, they are more "for fun" movies, such as his part as Captain Jack Sparrow in "The Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. Here, there were some moments when Depp was absolutely the carbon copy of Whitey Bulger himself, from the look to the speech to the attitude. The makeup department did a dynamite job when it comes to making Depp transform physically into the balding, dead-toothed, blue-eyed killer Bulger is, and Depp immersed himself in this part so much that watching him return to his truest, best form was an absolute delight...well, as delightful as a movie about a murderer can be. Depp was able to expertly capture both the helpful and sly neighborhood chap to his south-side Boston roots and friends, and in the blink of an eye, could turn into someone's worst nightmare, becoming a ruthless, soulless killer without a moment's hesitation. The scariest thing about Depp as Bulger is his slow-burning scariness as he never really raises his voice, never really shows his hand, and never makes a move without thinking 5-10 steps ahead of the curve. He's intimidating, subdued, and absolutely terrifying. Most of the time, his acting was outstanding. Unfortunately for me, there were a very few moments when the slightest glance, the smallest smirk, or a certain camera angle shook me right back to reality, realizing it felt like I was watching Johnny Depp playing the part Whitey Bulger. BigJ disagrees with me on this note as he believes the movie and Depp in it we're both electric and fantastic the entire time.

This movie is made as fabulous as it is by Depp, but not Depp alone. The supporting cast is equally as incredible, starting with Joel Edgerton, who has really made a name for himself in such a short time. Watching him act is a pleasure every single time we see him in a movie. There's not a trace of his accent to be had, nailing the Boston drawl with expert ease. His shifty allegiance to both the FBI and to Bulger can be seen from miles away, and Edgerton is really tremendous as a man who wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Whitey's younger politician brother Billy Bulger, but has a much sloppier Boston accent as his naturally British inflection slips through on more than one occasion. He didn't really look the part like the man he was supposed to be playing, so this might be a bit of a miscast, which is something we never thought we'd say about Cumberbatch, one of our favorites. For what it's worth, he does just fine, though. For the short time they are on screen, Dakota Johnson, Corey Stoll and Peter Sarsgaard are all good in their smaller parts, but it begs the question, why not put Rory Cochrane on the poster? He's basically Whitey's right-hand man throughout the film and it seems as if he wasn't given his dues when it comes to promotion and publicity. Cochrane is also excellent as Steve Flemmi, who eventually turned informant to testify against Bulger in exchange for a reduced sentence.

When it comes down to it, I agree with BigJ: "Black Mass" is a very, very good film, there are no bones about it. However, in my opinion, there seemed to be a little bit of disjointedness and some disconnectedness here and there in the film's storytelling and directing. It seems to sacrifice phony dramatics typical of the mobster genre simply implemented for the sake of entertainment, and instead, sticks to a more faithful representation and adaptation of the book "Black Mass" by Gerard K. O'Neill and Dick Lehr. Part of me wonders what an already more genre-established director could have done with this movie to solidify its status as the best gangster movie ever, a Francis Ford Coppola or Martin Scorsese type. Some parts of it felt a little slow and elongated, but overall, this is a rather riveting gangster movie, one of the best since Scorsese's Oscar-winning film "The Departed" in 2006 and "American Gangster" from 2007. It sees the second coming of Johnny Depp, who will most likely see his name on a "best actor" Oscar ballot come 2016. It is solid enough to make Depps' haters think twice about his recent acting faux-pas, and just violent enough to give fans of the gangster/mob/crime genre something to look forward to re-watching on blu-ray.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 76%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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