It’s nice to be reminded that Johnny Depp actually can still do good work as an actor, and that he’s not just a walking delivery system for makeup and questionable facial hair. He’s one of the best things about director Scott Cooper’s dramatization of the true story of James “Whitey” Bulger, the brutal South Boston crime boss who was protected in the 1970s and ’80s by his status as an FBI informant—and an FBI handler, John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who was a childhood pal of Bulger’s. As a procedural, it’s fairly bland stuff, attempting to evoke sprawling Scorsesean gangster tales like GoodFellas and The Departed but rarely latching on to its potentially unique perspective on neighborhood loyalties superseding all other obligations. Most of the time, Black Mass feels far more fascinated with its situation than with the people in that situation. It’s left to Depp to carry things, and he’s a convincingly creepy portrait of hair-trigger violence, perhaps even scarier when the mere possibility of his wrath is invoked. Here’s hoping he can apply this renewed vitality to a story that does it justice.
Director: Scott Cooper
Producer: John Lesher, Brian Oliver, Scott Cooper, Patrick McCormick, Tyler Thompson, Brett Ratner, James Packer, Steven Mnuchin, Peter Mallouk, Ray Mallouk, Christopher Woodrow, Brett Granstaff, Gary Granstaff, Phil Hunt and Compton Ross
Cast: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane, David Harbour, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, Julianne Nicholson, W. Brown, Bill Camp, Juno Temple, Mark Mahoney, Brad Carter, Scott Anderson, Lonnie Farmer, Mary Klug, Erica McDermott and Luke Ryan