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Review: Black Mass (TIFF 2015)

Black Mass (TIFF 2015)
09.14.2015
9 10

PLOT: A looks at the brutal reign of Boston mobster Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp), who ruled South Boston while covertly working as an FBI informant, feeding the bureau information on his competitors and shielding his schemes from prosecution.

REVIEW: BLACK MASS is destined to be seen as one of the great comeback movies of the last couple of years. While Johnny Depp's stardom will always be insured thanks to his lucrative turn in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN saga, misfires like THE LONE RANGER and disasters like MORTDECAI have made him lose his luster as a leading man – until now. As the diabolical Whitey Bulger, who once came in just under Osama Bin Laden on the FBI's most wanted list, Depp's found one of the great roles of his career and a part that seems sure to land him an Oscar nomination. Quite a turnaround considering how recent MORTDECAI was.

Depp really is great as the charismatic but evil Bulger. Sporting a thinning hairdo, pale blue eyes and rotting teeth, Bulger looks like a nightmarish figure, and Depp plays him as a man truly worthy of being feared. It's quite a convincing turn for someone who frequently tops the “most beautiful people” list, but to his credit Depp doesn't simply rely on the more obvious props to make Bulger such a well-rounded boogey-man. Soft-spoken as opposed to Jack Nicholson's Bulger-inspired performance in THE DEPARTED, Depp's at his scariest when he's subtle, such as a terrifying sequence (prominently featured in the trailers) where Bulger gets an FBI agent (David Harbour) to reveal his secret steak recipe, but then turns around and accuses him of being an unreliable potential snitch. For lack of a better, less-overused adjective, Depp is chilling.

However, while Depp could have been the whole show in BLACK MASS he gives just one of many solid performances, all beautifully assembled by director Scott Cooper, who lives up to the promise he showed with the underrated OUT OF THE FURNACE. This is probably just as much Joel Edgerton's movie as Johnny Depp's, with John Connolly, the agent who let Bulger run wild, being a much more complicated character. Here, he seems to be operating from a misguided sense of boyhood loyalty to Bulger, who he's quick to point out, defended him from bullies as a kid. Edgerton plays him as somewhat thick-headed and naive, but despite his obvious faults you can't help but identify with him and even – at times – understand why he'd get so suckered by the charismatic Bulger.

Otherwise, the movie is chalk-full of terrific parts, with Rory Cochrane excellent as Bulger's conflicted second-in-command, and Jesse Plemons disappearing completely into his role as killer Kevin Weeks'. Everyone is great, from Adam Scott and Kevin Bacon as Connolly's FBI collegues, to Corey Stoll as a straight-laced prosecutor, to Peter Saarsgaard in a small but memorable bit as a coked-up killer. Benedict Cumberbatch is also convincing as Bulger's more upstanding brother, but it feels like a minor part, as does Dakota Johnson's bit as the mother of Bulger's ill-fated child.

One thing about BLACK MASS is that it does feel like only part of the story is being told, especially considering the events that took place after the film. However, Cooper's disciplined decision to only focus on Bulger's reign pays off in that it's a focused, tight film without any slow bits. At 122 minutes, the movie races along like a roller-coaster and even if the whole story isn't really told, it still feels complete.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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7:20PM on 09/18/2015

It's Okay

This movie has star power. This movie is based on a true story. Johnny Depp is good in it. Why am I not impressed. For all the hype it's just not that great. It's good but not great. Joel Edgerton's character is not very interesting, there really is no one to root for. Most anti-hero movies like Depp's much better movie "BLOW" allow us to root for the bad guy with not so bad intentions. The movie starts with Depp riding around with fat dumpy guys and ends the same way. The only thing Depp's
This movie has star power. This movie is based on a true story. Johnny Depp is good in it. Why am I not impressed. For all the hype it's just not that great. It's good but not great. Joel Edgerton's character is not very interesting, there really is no one to root for. Most anti-hero movies like Depp's much better movie "BLOW" allow us to root for the bad guy with not so bad intentions. The movie starts with Depp riding around with fat dumpy guys and ends the same way. The only thing Depp's character seems to do is look for more ways to kill somebody. We don't see his empire, we are told he built it. How involved was his brother who only seems to be there for exposition. How can this many good (not great) actors make a movie so dull. I would give it 6 stars and that's only because of Depp's performance.
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3:21PM on 09/15/2015
Can't wait to see this. Nice to see Depp back in form.
Can't wait to see this. Nice to see Depp back in form.
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1:07PM on 09/15/2015

I never go to movies in September...

But I will break that rule this week. Usually September is nothing but shitty films that aren't good enough for a Summer release. I am glad this movie is up against basically nothing of interest to anyone so it can flourish and get Depp's name out of the mud.
But I will break that rule this week. Usually September is nothing but shitty films that aren't good enough for a Summer release. I am glad this movie is up against basically nothing of interest to anyone so it can flourish and get Depp's name out of the mud.
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9:41AM on 09/15/2015

awesome

I trust Bumbray's reviews, so I will see this opening weekend, really looking forward to Depp's return
I trust Bumbray's reviews, so I will see this opening weekend, really looking forward to Depp's return
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8:51AM on 09/15/2015
Welcome back Johnny Depp. Movie looks fantastic and really excited to see what Scott Cooper brought to this film after his first two terrific films (Crazy Heart, and Out of the Furnace). But it's great to see Depp in a relevant, quality film again doing what he's known best for.
Welcome back Johnny Depp. Movie looks fantastic and really excited to see what Scott Cooper brought to this film after his first two terrific films (Crazy Heart, and Out of the Furnace). But it's great to see Depp in a relevant, quality film again doing what he's known best for.
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8:08AM on 09/15/2015

Nice

Can't wait to see this. There is also an interesting doc in Netflix called the US vs Whitey Bulger which explores the court case to convict him after being on the lam for years.
Can't wait to see this. There is also an interesting doc in Netflix called the US vs Whitey Bulger which explores the court case to convict him after being on the lam for years.
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2:38AM on 09/15/2015
It really was a fantastic film. Johnny Depp is impeccable in this, it's the best acting he's done in years. He's pretty unnerving as Whitey. The movie wasn't quite as intense as I hoped and moves a little too briskly for me, but both Depp and Edgerton did a wonderful job in their respective parts. I genuinely believe that Depp deserves a nomination for this movie as it's some of the best acting I have seen all year.
It really was a fantastic film. Johnny Depp is impeccable in this, it's the best acting he's done in years. He's pretty unnerving as Whitey. The movie wasn't quite as intense as I hoped and moves a little too briskly for me, but both Depp and Edgerton did a wonderful job in their respective parts. I genuinely believe that Depp deserves a nomination for this movie as it's some of the best acting I have seen all year.
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2:26AM on 09/15/2015
Sounds like a great comeback for Johnny Depp.
Sounds like a great comeback for Johnny Depp.
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2:13AM on 09/15/2015

hmmmmm

This is the best review I've read for this, every other one says it's a decent performance but the actual movie is pretty weak. I highly doubt this is a 9 out of 10 movie.
This is the best review I've read for this, every other one says it's a decent performance but the actual movie is pretty weak. I highly doubt this is a 9 out of 10 movie.
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