The day that the cinematic community has been yearning for finally has arrived. Our long national nightmare is over. Johnny Depp has, at long last, delivered the kind of riveting performance that film-lovers the world over know he is capable of. “Black Mass” proves that Johnny Depp is far more than a Jack Sparrow-shaped-cash-cow for Disney and is capable of the exact opposite of the inhuman aberration that was “Mortdecai.”
Set in 1970 Boston, “Black Mass” tells the true story of the unholy alliance between James “Whitey” Bulger and the FBI, who mistakenly added fuel to a very deadly fire. Bulger, one of the most violent gangsters in Boston’s history, is played to spectacular effect by Johnny Depp. To say the character is captivating is an understatement. I found it nearly impossible to tear my eyes away from Depp’s cold stare of cruel conviction. While Depp’s return to glory certainly steals the show, “Black Mass” is stuffed to the gills with strong actors keeping pace.
While it doesn’t rise to the heights of “The Godfather” or, my personal favorite, “The Departed,” “Black Mass” is a very worthy entry in a long line of critically acclaimed gangster movies. It has all the right pieces for a great gangster flick — a menacing series of villains, a shifting line of morality and a film-spanning vise that continually tightens.
The only thing keeping “Black Mass” from a 6/6, or true greatness, is a murkiness of plot that obscures the tightening vise. One of my favorite things about watching “The Departed” for the first time, was the unbelievably intense concern that I had for the safety of the main characters. The threat was so real, it had a viscosity to it. I could feel the danger pumping through my veins like a Cerv’s Snowball (which I’ve really been missing after moving to D.C.) — cold, dense and packed with exhilarating. That rarest of cinematic elements that makes you forget that “Titanic” is doomed, makes you believe that Batman may not be able to save Gotham in “The Dark Knight” or wonder if happiness exists anywhere but with the “Guardians of the Galaxy.” If “Black Mass” had a little more of that secret sauce, this could have been one for the books.
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