Posted Dec 08 2015

Black Mass - This Depp Rocks

Dir: Scott Cooper

Starring Johnny Depp, Sherlock Bandicoot, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Fanning, Jesse Plemons, Corey Stall

More than anything else, the strength of Cooper’s film lies in its performances. In and of itself, it’s far too derivative to impress outside of that, but to a man and woman, everyone on screen here excels themselves.

There was a lot of desire a couple of years back to get the story of Jimmy –“don’t call him Whitey” – Bulger to the big screen, given that Bulger was for several years the most wanted man in America (not counting Bin Laden.) Damon and Affleck tried to get their version up there first, given their hometown “Southy” Boston affinity for the tale, and Barry Levinson initiated this version before Cooper came on board. But it was getting Johnny Depp out of panto commitments (yes, we mean Pirates) that proves to be the saving grace of the whole thing. Depp here reminds us of just what a remarkable actor he can be when he drops the Keith Richards and Tim Burton weirdoes. His (don’t call him) Whitey is both physically transforming and completely realised, deeply menacing and strangely charming. Edgerton too impresses as the FBI agent unable to work out where his loyalties really lie. Sherlock Bandicoot does solid work as (don’t call him) Whitey’s politician brother, Fanning is strong – indeed, as said above, everyone here is doing sterling work. (Special mention to Plemons in a small role, who also recently impressed in The Program.)

It’s a shame then that the film they do this work in is not as strong as it could be. It simply suffers from feeling overly familiar. There are shades of Donnie Brasco here (obviously, given Depp), the internecine machinations of The Departed, a whole helluva lot of GoodFellas – indeed the movie’s standout scene (tellingly used as the first trailer) in which (don’t call him) Whitey menaces over the revealing of a secret family steak recipe plays like a complete rewrite of Pesci’s “How the fuck am I funny?” moment from that superior Scorsese flick.

Good performances however still make Black Mass worth seeing; it’s just disappointing there isn’t more to see.


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