BLACK MASS features probably the best dramatic performance yet from the continually surprising Johnny Depp. He stuns here, not only by of his blistering portrait of brutal hood James ‘Whitey’ Bulger but because it’s such a welcome return to form for the offbeat star, who had been drifting in misfires like The Lone Ranger, Mortdecai, Transcendence, The Tourist (ouch) and the silly sequels of his pirate franchise.
Here, the deeply committed Depp from Blow, Donnie Brasco, Ed Wood and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape returns with a bitter vengeance. It’s like watching a lethal reptile on the other side of a chicken wire cage; you hope the fencing is strong enough to hold the creature. It was grand larceny that he wasn’t recognized with an Oscar nomination.
He’s got a castful of strong company in the merciless 122 minutes, tightly directed by Scott Cooper: there are some dead-mean-eyed buckos to contend with playing South Boston ruffians and the officials on their trail (or payroll), and telling, if brief, shots from the unlucky women in their lives. Kudos to everyone: the hoods unerringly put over by Peter Sarsgaard, Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemons and W. Earl Brown; the suits, on one side of the fence or other, punched across by Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Harbour, Kevin Bacon and Corey Stoll; the unlucky ladies nerve-shredded by Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson and Juno Temple. Not a missed beat in the lot.
Tense score from Tom Holkenberg(Junkie XL). Costing $53,000,000, it stashed just shy of $100,000,000. Profane script is by Jezz Butterworth and Mark Mallouk. With Adam Scott, Bill Camp. Pretty much a guy movie (and/or tough chicks, if you’re so blessed/cursed.)