Joel Edgerton and Johnny Depp
Want to know where all the acting went? Black Mass has the acting. All of the acting. Johnny Depp stars as James “Whitey” Bulger in the how-can-this-be-true story of how the FBI abetted a monster. Bulger terrorized Boston for years, given free reign by his status as an FBI informant. Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace filmmaker Scott Cooper delivers his finest film, one that feels like the year’s first real Oscar bait.
Fortunately, Cooper’s film may be dark, but it is not nearly as bleak as the well acted but depressing Out of the Furnace. Black Mass is an acting dream. Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Jesse Plemons (Landry from “Friday Night Lights”), Rory Cochrane, David Harbour, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, Julianne Nicholson, W. Earl Brown (forever the “franks and beans” guy from There’s Something about Mary) and Juno Temple all attempt accents, mostly “Bah-stonian,” with varying degrees of success. Nobody lazes through this flick on a typical persona, except maybe Temple. As usual, Depp is fantastic, but remember the days when he blended into a role rather than stood out from it? (Donnie Brasco, maybe?) His psychotic Bulger looks like Nosferatu by way of Wonderland.
As showy as the performances are, the true-crime story fascinates for two hours, especially for the uninitiated, as it verges on nigh-unbelievable. A film this engrossing opening in September is rare; audiences need to take advantage.