Friday, September 18, 2015

Review: Black Mass (2015)

                                         
                             
                                'Black Mass' Is Like 'Finefellas'
             
         Despite Black Mass being marketed as the Depp show or his 'comeback vehicle' because he isn't pulling off the Jack Sparrow routine after so many times, it was quite surprising to find out that it is not necessarily his vehicle and you'll find out who the film's secret weapon is.

         Story:
      Black Mass follows the real-life story of notorious criminal Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) who has committed countless crimes yet was able to get away with most of them thanks to his connections with the FBI and agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton). But after aligning with the FBI to take down the Italian mafia, Bulger's relationship with Connolly becomes strained once Bulger rises to power.

      Ups:
     I'll start off with the actors. First I'll go into everybody's biggest question mark: Johnny Depp. Is this a return to form for him? Is this some of his best work? Sort of. It was interesting that he still does his traditional makeup routine, yet doesn't play up his quirky Jack Sparrow routine which was kind of a relief. He is very good as the elusive snake-like Bulger, yet interestingly, he is not the real star of the film. That honor goes to Joel Edgerton. Edgerton pulls off the most three-dimensional character in the film as John Connolly as he uses his eyes and bodily expressions to take the audience on his moral compass. Even as Connolly relishes in his connection to th corrupt Whitey that furthers his career, he still shows that he has a heart of gold and slowly realizes the error of his ways. Benedict Cumberbatch has a smaller role as Whitey's senator brother Billy and not only is he really good here, but I would say he is even better than in his Oscar-nominated turn in The Imitation Game. Kevin Bacon is also in this as Connolly's boss Charles McGuire and he once again proves why he is one of Hollywood's most undervalued yet most talented actors. I loved the rest of the cast as well including Corey Stoll, Jesse Plemons, Julianne Nicholson, Dakota Johnson, and even despite his dodgy accent, Peter Sarsgaard.

I also thought the film was shot beautifully by Masanobu Takayanagi. I especially liked the scenes where he incorporated green lighting. That helped give the film an almost eerie feel.

    Downs:
  Despite the film being a tremendous actor's showcase, the rest of the film is...kind of a drag. First off, this movie is a very slow burn. If you are going in, expecting something of high-octane Goodfellas flare like I did, then you will be very disappointed. As a result of the film being a slow burn, it makes the film itself rather adequate and less memorable which is a shame. It is not as adrenaline-pumped as Goodfellas but thankfully it isn't as glacial as a film like Foxcatcher. 

    Consensus:
   Overall, Black Mass isn't the tremendous 'Depp comeback' vehicle it has been touted as, but it is still a slight return to form for its main actor after his vacationing in Pirates/Tim Burton land and it features outstanding acting from the rest of the cast as well. Especially Joel Edgerton who builds a strong case for an Oscar nomination come January.

   Would I Recommend It?:
   Yes, but see it for the actors and don't expect a high-octane mob movie in the vein of Scorsese. But whether you like Depp or have become weary of him recently, I would still suggest seeing it.

Grade: B-