Director: Scott Cooper (2015)
After series of flops including Mortdecai (2015), Transcendence (2014) and The Lone Ranger (2013), Johnny Depp’s career is in desperate need of a hit.
Here he hides his leading man looks under extensive make up, false teeth and a receding wig.
Although he’s great as the ruthless American gangster ‘Whitey’ Bulger, it’s a clunking biopic that’s far less than the sum of it’s parts.
It’s fine looking with a nice contrast between the faded grandeur of the locations and unfortunate 1970’s fashions.
Boston is inherently photogenic and offers a variety of unfamiliar settings.
But strong performances from a great cast are undermined by an unfocused script and uninspired direction.
Whitey feeds information on his mafia rivals to childhood friend turned FBI agent in return for a blind eye to his gangster activities.
Joel Edgerton’s central character is sidelined in order to give more screen-time to Depp.
Neither are sympathetic, despite early attempts to portray Whitey as a loving family man.
Supporting characters such as Jesse Plemons’ are introduced, forgotten about and wheeled back in again.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s role is even more reduced as Whitey’s Senator brother.
There’s an interesting story to be told how the lives of these two brothers took very different directions.
But the film ignores this, preferring to indulge in macho posturing and bloody violence.
The setting, soundtrack, language and violence are very much the milieu of director Martin Scorsese.
However not only does Black Mass feel like Martin Scorsese lite, it feels like poor Martin Scorsese lite.
Black Mass calls to mind the maestro’s weak, albeit Oscar winning The Departed (2006).
What’s more interesting is it’s also Ben Affleck light. Black Mass suffers in comparison with the actor turned director’s Boston set crime thrillers Gone Baby Gone (2007) and The Town (2010).
I say that as a fan of both Affleck’s films.
Depp may have to wait a while longer for his next success.