With certain genres comes certain unavoidable cliches that can either make or break a film like this. The tough gangster, the constant murders and the general distaste for law enforcement are just some of these constants in the crime genre. While the commonplace doesn’t stop there it doesn’t always guarantee failure either. Much like with anything in film, it has a lot to do with approach. Familiar can still be showcased in a manner that still manages to entertain and in the case of the performances in Black Mass, enthrall completely.
Currently being heralded by many as Johnny Depp’s best performance yet I would have to agree. I think the greatest compliment I can give his performance is that on a regular basis I forgot it was Depp on screen. The way his character almost slithers along spreading fear and disgust onto anyone unlucky enough to find themselves in his harrowing presence was always a thrill to watch. Hopefully this is a sign that his dry spell is over.
Carrying the rest of the film is a charismatic ensemble cast consisting of some of the best actors working today. Joel Edgerton continues to confidently display his strengths as an actor, Benedict Cumberbatch manages to pull off not only a worthwhile performance but a convincing enough “Southie” accent. Also of note is Breaking Bad alumni, Jesse Plemons who continues to show off his aptitude for playing less than stable individuals. Finishing out this talented amalgam of actors is the highly enthusiastic Peter Sarsgaard and usual hardass, Corey Stoll.
I think where the familiarity that I spoke of becomes refreshed is not only through the powerhouse performances but through the sure and now seasoned hands of director, Scott Cooper. Having directed heavy and despairing dramas of note such as Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace, he crafted a well-written script into a well-formed crime drama that competes with the best of its kind. He holds shots to display the true brutality of these people which helps lend a sense of overall dread to the entire film. It becomes more about when someone is going to die rather than will they or won’t they. It’s like bracing for the big drop on the roller coaster only to find that all your bracing wasn’t enough to assuage the shock of the drop itself. Sure you can assume each character is going to meet a lead-filled ending but when it comes there seems to be no real lack of surprise. Quite frankly if watching someone (pretend to) get shot in the face three times becomes mundane to me I promise to see someone about my obvious psychosis.
This is typical in many ways but it is never without heft and consequence which makes for a truly wonderful film. Depp and cast deliver greatly, playing convincing psychopaths or victims and in some cases, both. If I had to state a weakness it would have to be a lack of a relatable person to standby as hell wreaks over South Boston. I can’t see myself hanging with murderous gangsters tweaked out on drugs or in the case of Bulger (Depp), pure anger. If you like gangster flicks then I highly recommend checking Black Mass out. This is a solid effort from a tremendous cast and crew.
Rated R For: brutal violence, language throughout, some sexual references and brief drug use
Runtime: 122 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Starring: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Peter Sarsgaard, Corey Stoll, Dakota Johnson
Directed By: Scott Cooper
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4.5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 4.5/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL 4.5 Nerdskulls
Check out the trailer below:
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