Over the past several years, Johnny Depp has been criticized time and time again for his lack of a star performance. All of that changed this past weekend with the release of his latest film, Black Mass.
The film opened second in the box office to sequel hit Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and is based on the true story of South Boston’s most notorious gangster, James “Whitey” Bulger. Even though Black Mass did not come in first, it had a stronger earning than its initial predictions. This is the best news for Depp, considering his last few films, Mortdecai, Transcendence and The Lone Ranger, flopped. The actor has seemed to finally hit a homerun with his performance as Bulger, which will most likely lead to Depp’s fourth Academy Award nomination.
Depp’s new success cannot only be accredited to his stellar acting. The rest of the cast of highly regarded actors includes Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon, Benedict Cumberbatch and Peter Sarsgaard. Maybe Depp should thank the casting department for giving him a strong supporting cast to help make the film a major success.
Depp is a perfect choice to play the legendary gangster psychopath because he normally portrays psychotic characters. His performance was so good that, at times, I sat in the theater wondering if Bulger was even a bad person. Depp was so convincing his role as a family man in scenes with Bulger’s son, mother and brother that I honestly thought that he could not truly be bad man. Following these softer scenes were brutal murders by Bulger and his henchmen. I could not understand why Bulger went back and forth from being semi-redeemable to a ruthless killer. This led me to wonder what the real Bulger was like.
The film left me with many more questions. Why was Bulger sentenced to Alcatraz? We never learn the answer because the film starts in 1975, years after Bulger’s sentence. How was Bulger’s brother, Billy Bulger (Cumberbatch), able to hold office as State Senator when his brother was a wanted fugitive? Why did the deaths of Bulger’s son and mother set him on a deeper path to crime? How did Bulger go from being a small gangster to Boston kingpin in such a short amount of time?
Unfortunately, the film did not get into what I felt to be the more interesting parts of Bulger’s crime spree. Instead, it focused on the “alliance” between Bulger and corrupt FBI agent John Connolly (Edgerton). The alliance was explained as Connolly wanting to take down the Irish Mafia and needing information from his childhood friend, Bulger. With the deal of being an informant, Bulger and his gang were free to do whatever they pleased. Edgerton played the corrupt agent so well that I wondered at times who the real criminal in the film was. Edgerton’s strong supporting role may land him an Academy Award nomination, too.
Overall, the story was very interesting and captivating. Bulger is a huge individual in crime history that has always been a black mass of mystery. I may never know if the film is the complete, full story, but I sure am nervous if it is.