Depp Brings Appropriate Weight to ‘Black Mass’

Great actors are said to disappear into their roles, and no actor tries harder to do that than Johnny Depp.

It seems that every film he has done over the past several years has involved some sort of heavy costuming.  

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Most people assume he chooses his new goofy looks according to whatever movie he is in, but I am starting to suspect he chooses ridiculous makeup, hats and wigs he likes and then forces studios to write movies around them.

Depp’s latest cinematic fashion show is “Black Mass,” where he is layered in creepy old-man paint to portray former organized crime boss, Whitey Bulger. Many of Depp’s more recent roles have only involved him physically disappearing into the role he is playing, but within this movie he actually stops channeling his Burton movie goofiness to play the character rather than the aesthetics. Depp has not been devoted to a role this much since “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

“Black Mass” is mostly carried by Depp’s vicious, quietly terrifying menace. The real-life story is undoubtedly interesting, and capably directed by Scott Cooper, but it is difficult not to notice how it frequently echoes that of Martin Scorsese films. The influence Scorsese had on the conventions of the gangster drama is hard to avoid, but films like “Black Mass” could have tried a bit harder to break new ground.

This would be a relatively ho-hum film without Depp’s lead, but Depp also received a lot of help from a cast packed with strong talents like Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon and Juno Temple. Even if you do not care much for the genre, the cavalcade of onscreen talent is hard to resist.

“Black Mass” will not have the staying power of films such as “Goodfellas” or even Depp’s other impressive organized crime effort “Donnie Brasco,” but it is most notable as a welcome return to form for the actor, satisfying old fans and maybe even earning a few new ones.

“Black Mass” scores 7 over-the-top Boston accents out of 10.


Brady Simenson


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