Johnny Depp hasn’t had the biggest success ratings lately. With failures like Dark Shadows, Transcendent, and Mortdecai, he has left audiences wondering if we would ever see the real Johnny Depp again. Though the Pirates franchise continues to be box office hits, they have even fallen to the scrutiny of critics. His newest outing, Black Mass however has been silently working its way to the theaters, with a decent marking campaign that has made it look like a return to form for the major talent that is Depp. The question on everyone’s mind was, is Black Mass as good as it looks?
Black Mass is a crime drama released on September 18, 2015. It stars Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Corey Stoll, Peter Sarsguard, and Dakota Johnson. Written by Jez Butterworth (Edge of Tomorrow, Spectre) and directed by Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace) Black Mass tells the true story of the infamous mobster Whitey Bulger (Depp) and his alliance with the FBI that kept him out of prison, and at the top of organized crime in the late 70s and early 80s. It is based on the book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr.
What works best in this film are the performances? Johnny Depp must have heard people talking down about his acting and said “Oh yea? Watch this!” Because this is the star that we knew Depp was. He still has his makeup on, but that helps him disappear into this creepy, disgusting creature that is Whitey Bulger. He is phenomenal. One of his absolute best performances.
Another star performance is the one and only Joel Edgerton. Edgerton is putting together quite a resume. From Warrior, to The Gift, and now Black Mass, Edgerton is showing us he is a talent to be reckoned with. It won’t be long until the big leagues try to snatch him up, the Star Wars’ the Marvel’s, the DC’s. This guy is good.
To go along with Edgerton and Depp the rest of the cast is stellar. Cumberbatch is a star as always and nails the Boston accent. Bacon is a stand out and fun to see. Corey Stoll’s role is small but had the potential to be really impactful. The scenes he is in are intense and deep.
Another plus for this film is its tone. It is dark, and gritty and real. There are scenes that are legitimately hard to watch. And not because of gore or anything like that, they are just well written scenes. You feel the tension. There is a scene that was in the original trailer at a dinner table, and it just chills you to the bone. And it is not just that scene from the trailer; it is expanded, and heavy. The deaths are intense, and real, and you hurt with them, it almost feels like a serial killer film rather than a mobster film.
What hurts the film is I think the run time. It could’ve used another half hour to 45 minutes. The story seems to jump a lot, and when it does it almost leaves you lost at what has happened and what was missing in the years they jumped. Thy use some exposition to show you what all Bulger was doing, but they never really get into it. They never really show you his workings. They also didn’t show much of the war between the Italian Mafia and Irish Mob. I would have liked to see them delve into that a little more. Show us the battles, and turf war they were in.
Another issue I had was a lack of protagonist. Everyone is kind of the villain. You don’t really root for anyone until Corey Stoll arrives. And when he finally gets there you think ok, here comes the deep investigation into Bulger. And they give you one intense scene between Stoll and Edgerton’s characters, but then it is kind of left alone. And you are left to assume he had an investigation.
Over all Black Mass is a pretty good film, with incredible performances. Casting was out of this world, and every actor knocks it out of the park. While it suffers from a rather hollow story, it is still worth seeing. This might not be one that you re watch over and over, but it is still must see, especially for any Johnny Depp fan looking for his resurgence. I’m giving Black Mass a score of 3.8, with a .2 bonus for every actors, most importantly Depp’s, transformation into these roles. That leaves us with a Jeebus Score of 4.
The Jeebus Score explained
The Jeebus score is out of a possible 6 points. Films are giving a max of 1 point each for Acting, Entertainment, and Casting, and a max of .5 for Dialog, Cinematography, and Direction. There is also a possible bonus up to .5. Any film between 2.5 and 4 is considered a good film. 4-5 is a great film. Anything over 5 is an incredibly amazing film. To get a perfect score of 6 a film will pretty much have to be The Empire Strikes Back or The Godfather.