Starring: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson, David Harbour, Corey Stoll, Adam Scott, Peter Sarsgaard, Julianne Nicholson, Bill Camp, W Earl Brown, Juno Temple
Directed By: Scott Cooper
A fantastic film I didn’t get the opportunity to see in theatres. Possibly the best performance Johnny Depp has given. Scott Cooper has gone 3/3 now, and has proven himself to be one of the best new directors in Hollywood. This is not a movie to be missed. It’s like Depp went full circle from his Donnie Brasco days, and has capped off a chapter in his career. Maybe it isn’t as flashy as Goodfellas or Casino, but this ranks right up there with the best mafia movies of all time.
Depp plays James “Whitey” Bulger, a mafia-type in the Southie part of Boston, who looks to expanding his empire while operating as an informant for the FBI with the help of FBI Agent John Connolly (Edgerton), who he grew up with. Of course, he’s not really looking to be an informant, but rather uses Connolly for information to further his own enterprises. Every time someone tries to snitch, they wind up dead. Eventually, things catch up to him (not a spoiler, this is a true story after all), but he was a pretty powerful man for a while.
Depp has an uncanny ability to lose himself in a role. Sometimes, he loses himself in an over-the-top performance like Jack Sparrow, but here he’s able to lose himself in a subdued performance, which only makes it that much better. You can feel his seething tension in every scene. He’s fully invested in his character, in every mannerism, in every pattern of speech. I never felt like I was watching Johnny Depp, but rather the actual Whitey Bulger.
Because of this, it’s hard for the supporting cast to stand out. Edgerton does a good job, as does Cumberbatch. In more minor roles, I thought Plemons and Cochrane were both good, and Julianne Nicholson has her moments. The only actor I didn’t enjoy was the child actor they picked for his son, but he’s barely in the film. He has maybe two or three lines, but they’re pretty painful to watch. I don’t want to be too hard on the kid, but I’m not sure he’s ready for this acting thing.
The film also has an excellent score, which highlights the urgency of parts of the film. Music was such a big part of Crazy Heart, and I’m thinking that music is going to be a big part of all of Scott Cooper’s films. He will likely continue to make sure that his scores compliment the film, rather than just underscore.
I would have definitely nominated Depp over Fassbender’s turn in Steve Jobs. If Depp truly is getting better with age, then his best performance is still yet to come, and that’s exciting. It’s always nice to see an actor getting better and better, rather than peaking early and slipping into straight-to-video oblivion. Definitely see Black Mass. You won’t regret it.
FINAL GRADE: A