The first review from Venezia72 day three is Johnny Depp’s Black Mass. This film is out of competition here in Venice and will just be screened.
The theatre was the busiest I had seen it so far when I sat down to take my seat. The precedent was set now...
Was this room packed because it was going to be a masterful film with Johnny Depp at the helm or is it because people were flocking to just see the main man himself.
I have the details…
Johnny Depp is back once again with his new gangster film Black Mass. It’s based on the true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.
Depp stars as James Bulger the Boston kingpin in a role that is pretty much unusual to him. He plays a calculated and composed killer that has literally no worries in finding the urge to murder. He’s ruthless, intelligent and has icy blue eyes that stare straight out of the screen.
Depp has the measure of Whitey Bulger instantly. He conveys him exactly like the true person he was. Bulger’s real friends have commented how well Johnny portrays him so that is a compliment in itself. Johnny Depp hasn’t had the best decade with recent outings in Transcendence, The Lone Ranger, Mortdeci, Dark Shadows and The Rum Diary – this was just the last four years! So I was ready for another misfire.
I was wrong. Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace) directs a blinder with Depp as the anchor. In tandem, they get the best out of each other. The faces Johnny pulls, the camera work when Scott finds the angles – it just gels. Cooper has already had Oscar glory with his 2009 effort Crazy Heart so he is definitely the man Depp needed.
The shots throughout this film are intense. They are so intense because you’re in the characters’ faces with so many point-of-view shots. You feel like you’re included in the fights, discussions, arguments and finding out those all important secrets. The dark and moody style to this film is key. It progressively gets darker and lonelier as the film goes on. You feel and know that time is running out when the climax nears.
Cooper gives the film a style that feels true to the period. It’s a movie that doesn’t just feel like it’s taking place in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, but seems to have been made then. Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi’s enhances this by shooting in 35mm widescreen lensing – most notorious in the Godfather movies.
I really enjoyed Joel Edgerton and Dakota Johnson’s performances in their supporting roles. Johnson is a fine actress but maybe give Fifty Shades of Grey a miss. She is edgy and can pack a punch in this film as a couple of times she stands up to Whitey Bulger. She delivers her angst perfectly. Edgerton keeps getting better and better. Along with Gyllenhaal and Ruffalo – Joel is on the top of his game. He is smooth, cool and collected in his role. Even when he is arrested, his persona doesn’t let up and he still provides that Boston cop swagger.
I believe Johnny Depp’s comeback is on – and I told him too. He is pleased with the reception for this film and so he should be. Together, Depp and Cooper have made a great gangster biopic/film. I’m a huge admire of this genre so I am even more happy it is a success. Let’s just hope Depp’s next few films see his form continue.
Cineroom's Rating: 4 Stars
Black Mass is released worldwide on September 18th 2015. Certificate TBC