There’s no secret that Johnny Depp’s recent career choices have made many people question his credibility as an actor. For me, it’s even become a little hard to even have a mental image of Johnny Depp because there are so many cartoonish caricatures he’s played over the the past decade that it’s hard to put your finger on just one of those caricatures.
Thankfully though, he’s finally back with Black Mass, a film that gives him a decent enough canvas to show his terrific range as an actor and function as an entertaining gangster film.
For those of you who don’t know, the film is based on the true story of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, one of the most notorious gangsters to come out of Boston and this unholy alliance he formed with the FBI in the 1970’s that allowed Bulger to eliminate the Italian mob and become one of the most powerful and dangerous people in the country.
What I like about Black Mass, is that it’s very, very entertaining. It’s deftly paced and I can’t think of a single minute of this film when I was bored and one of the reasons it’s so entertaining is because of the excellent performances on offer. Johnny Depp is arguably the highlight as Whitey Bulger, and drenched in makeup he does his best work in years, giving a performance that’s both darkly comical and downright scary. The film also has an amazing supporting cast that features the likes of, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson, Corey Stoll, Peter Sarsgaard, out of whom Joel Edgerton in particular really stands out in his superb performance as FBI agent John Connolly, the person who is responsible for forming this entire alliance with Bulger.
As good as Black Mass is though, it isn’t without it fair share of problems, problems that ultimately prevent it from being a great film and one of those problems is the fact that it lacks focus. I rarely say this but I think the film could have benefitted from another thirty minutes of runtime because at the end there are just so many things in this movie that feel rushed and undercooked and as a result I walked out of the movie with this feeling of emotional hollowness. The film’s script is considerably weak and even though writers Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth produce more than a few great scenes, their script lacks structure and a lot of the film’s characters do not feel properly fleshed out either.
Despite this, though, Black Mass is a very good movie that offers a welcome comeback performance from Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger, as well as an excellent one from Joel Edgerton. It may not be the tightest and most focused film but it’s certainly an entertaining and enjoyable one.