Cinematic Releases: Black Mass

Johnny Depp finally takes a break from routine and becomes James "Whitey" Bulger.

"Thank you god. I can still act."
After waiting years, audiences are finally privy to finding out whether or not Johnny Depp can still throw himself headlong in to a transformative role. For the most part, his fans will find that answer to be a resounding yes. Leaving the Burton curse behind him and finding blood covered solace in the role of James "Whitey" Bulger proves the man can still act his way through a dark feature heavy on death and criminality, even if the film at hand isn't everything we were hoping for. Black Mass makes heavy dramatic strides to capture the same tones as Scorsese but falters in its slow delivery that never really takes off. Black Mass is often times frustrating while it ebbs and flows through the criminal underbelly of Bulger's world, never quite accomplishing greatness or reaching the heights that could have been met by a more seasoned director. 

Director Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace and Crazy Heart) has an obvious talent for capturing violence infused grit and draws excellent performances from this huge cast of character actors. But, his presentation of this true crime story is lacking continuity and the strong third act that a movie like this relies heavily on. Thinking back to films like Goodfellas (an obvious influence here), the last chapter moved at breakneck speed giving its viewers a tension laced last act that truly made them feel like they were in the moment with the characters. With Black Mass however, Cooper keeps the entire movie at one steady pace that simply fails the subject matter during its final forty five minutes. Black Mass has a distinct street quality and an overall realistic feel, but ultimately struggles to stay involving or congruent. 

Yet, the cast delivers on all fronts. Depp is back in form, throwing every ounce of himself into the fray as the psychopathic Bulger. Under some makeup and a set of freaky contact lenses, Depp is a spitting image of the real life "Whitey". He's always been a chameleon when it comes to roles. Whether its starring as one of Tim Burton's gothic characters or playing Jack Sparrow, the man knows exactly how to become whoever he's playing. With Black Mass, audiences are finally given another look at the versatile actor that played other real life antiheroes, Donnie Brasco and George Jung. Does he redeem his wrong doings from the past decade? Yes. Abundantly so. This is Depp back where he belongs, far away from children's movies and repetitive caricatures. With a solid support system rooted in the constantly changing Joel Edgerton and the always grandiose Benedict Cumberbatch, there are no complaints in the acting department. 

"Snitches are bitches that get shot and thrown in ditches."

If you're hoping for the second coming of the crime drama, Black Mass comes extremely close to the edge but has some apparent flaws in the storytelling department. Many details are glanced over. Some scenes of carnage aren't as fleshed out as they could have been. Despite the perfect rendering of the decades this movie inhabits, the attention to detail and similar cinematography to the aforementioned Scorsese film, something is missing in Black Mass. The pulse never changes as it fails to ever ramp up into what most audience members might be expecting. Don't get me wrong. It's a very good film. It's just not what you were expecting. In the hands of someone more experienced this could have been Oscar caliber material. 



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