By: Bailey Hart
Johnny Depp’s back, everyone. After a series of horrible missteps in his career (Mortdecai, Transcendence, The Lone Ranger, etc.), Depp excels as infamous gangster Whitey Bulger in this wannabe-Scorsese gangster flick. As Bulger, Depp looks a bit like what would happen if you crossbred a lizard, Satan, and Ray Liotta. He threatens, betrays, murders, lies, and is basically a poster-boy for pure evil. He’s quite impressive in many of the film’s ‘intimidation’ scenes. If anything, Black Mass is worth checking out just for Depp’s performance. Sadly, not much else is present in this cliched meandering bore of a film that, while competently directed, lacks much stability, emotion, or originality.
Witness the family dinner scene where Depp explains to his son that hurting people is fine as long as when you do so, you’re “not in front of other people”. Prepare to be shocked as one of our main characters, an FBI agent, doesn’t perform his duty adequately enough to avoid multiple shouting matches between his coworkers and superiors. The absolute best and most memorable scene in the movie, involving dinner and family recipes, was featured in the film’s first official preview, so avoid trailers for this film as much as you can.
Most of the cast struggles along with wavering, sometimes embarrassing faux-Boston accents. Benedict Cumberbatch tries his best, but is completely unfitting in a cast of big, rough and tough gangster guys. Dakota Johnson, of Fifty Shades of Grey fame, is a decent enough actress in some of the film’s early scenes. There’s also a great few scenes about halfway through involving actress Juno Temple, who absolutely steals the show. I can’t shake the suspicion that a movie about her character’s life would be much more engaging than Black Mass, if not just for her energy and charisma in the role.
Frankly, I had a very hard time getting invested in Black Mass. There aren’t many characters to care about. Depp’s performance is fantastic, but perhaps it was the over-the-top makeup effects that make it difficult to ever truly feel threatened by his screen presence. Either that, or the general repetitiveness and triteness of the movie. Far too many scenes exist just to show how much Depp’s character strives to gain dominance over others, either through dialogue or through violence, resulting in a rather one note character, and many obnoxiously predictable setups.
Black Mass is a finely made film, but it does lack a certain craftsmanship, something to really keep the audience invested. Still, I’d recommend checking it out, and am very excited to see Johnny Depp taking on great, interesting roles once again. C+