Sunday, September 20, 2015
Highlight: Johnny Depp as James "Whitey" BulgerBy Tinsel & Tine Editor, Le Anne Lindsay
I'm not really big on gangster films, although I do think, like most people, that Goodfellas is excellent. Despite my aversion, now is the time when the movies that will most likely be nominated for a Golden Globe or even an Oscar start hitting the theaters, so I try to see the ones with buzz, like BLACK MASS. Although, I'm not putting myself through SICARIO, thankfully, Blog Contrib Mikhail Revlock's covering that one.
Johnny Depp over the years has chosen roles where he's disguised - starting with Edward Scissorhand, to the fey Pirate Jack Sparrow, a 60's bob haircut Willy Wonka, wiry red headed Mad Hatter, a Demon Barber of Fleet Street and so on... all of his characters are extremely creative and you see that Depp likes to lose himself in these roles; but this role as James "Whitey" Bulger is different. This shows a depth to Depp I'm not sure we knew he had. There's not 1oz. of himself lurking behind the cold gray eyes of this famed Boston Gangster. It's not just the makeup,which is what Steve Carell hid behind last year in Foxcatcher (click for T&T post) , I didn't think his performance as the seriously disturbed John E. du Pont, was as praiseworthy as everyone else gave him credit for. But I'm in awe of Johnny Depp's transformation, he's truly scary.
Black Mass directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart click for T&T post) is one of those films with two protagonists, the movie is partly seen through the eyes of FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) a Southie who grew up with Jimmy Bulger and his brother Billy, a popular Massachusetts Senator (Benedict Cumberbatch). Connolly's voice over near the beginning of the movie reveals kids from the neighborhood went from playing cops and robbers on the playground to becoming them in real-life. And just like when they were children, it's often hard to tell the difference between the two. Connolly convinces his superior, played by an under used Kevin Bacon, to bring Jimmy "Whitey" Bulger in as an informant in order to get the goods on a bigger mob operation than "Whitey's own Winter Hill Gang. Jimmy agrees seeing it as an opportunity to get rid of the competition and to further his own ambitions, which expands exponentially under the protection of the FBI.
It doesn't appear Connolly ever cared about bringing anyone down. He seems to be driven by Southie loyalty. He's looked up to Jimmy since they were kids and now he wants to impress him. You know, he knows, Jimmy's not really gonna be much of an informant, but the deal gives Connolly an in of sorts, as part of the Winter Hill Gang, despite his wife's (Julianne Nicholson) misgivings.
I didn't know Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey click for T&T post) was going to be in the movie. She's convincing as Jimmy's South Boston Moll, and mother to his angelic looking son.
Not sure how the relationship between Jimmy and his brother Billy shakes out in the Book "Black Mass" by Dick Lehr and Gerard K. O'Neill, but in the movie, it's like they just leave business out of their relationship as much as possible. They're not real close, but they get along just fine, hanging at their Mom's house and spending holidays together. Billy seems to be on the up and up, yet this doesn't seem to bother Jimmy. You never see him try to corrupt his brother with his crime dealings in anyway. And in turn, you never see Billy try to get Jimmy in trouble or outta trouble with the law. Not depicted in the movie are their four other siblings, you kinda wonder on which side of the law the others fell. The movie doesn't span this far, but later in life, Billy becomes President of the University of Massachusetts. But after Jimmy goes on the lam, he's forced to resign for refusing to cooperate with authorities in their search for Jimmy. Which still doesn't mean he helped his brother avoid capture; just that he wasn't going to help him get captured.
Bottom Line: It's no Goodfellas, but it's a good cross between a mob movie and a biopic. The look of the movie reminded me of The Drop (click for T&T post) and some of the characterization, although not nearly as over the top, reminded me of American Hustle (click for T&T post).
T &T's LAMB Score: 3.5 outta 5
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