New breed of Johnny Depp shines in “Black Mass”

Tony Callens, Staff Writer


Ladies and gentleman, Johnny Depp is back.

This isn’t Captain Jack Sparrow or the Mad Hatter. Nor is it some quirky role in a team up with Tim Burton.

This is “Black Mass” and this is a whole new role for the 52-year old actor. Depp is playing the role of Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, who is one of the most notorious gangsters in the history if the United States of America, and the role is a great undertaking.

Usually Depp will take roles that fit his quirky yet charming personality. Being the “handsome weirdo” is his M.O. As Bulger, he is neither quirky or a handsome weirdo. His performance as Bulger is powerful, sometimes charming, but haunting all in one

The film carries a homerun cast of Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon and Dakota Johnson, yet Depp is the main highlight. Is it the cold, soulless eyes they gave him? Or the raspy, foreboding laugh he has? Or is the unreadability of a stone face that Depp gives Bulger?

You can never read the man or know what will happen. There is a cold, calculating side to the character that is just terrifying to watch and will leave the viewer on the edge of their seat. Will Whitey kill those who disrespect him or is he just messing around with the people he is enjoying a dinner with?

The premise of “Black Mass” is the story of Bulger and his “unholy” alliance with the FBI, where he was an informant for it for 20 years while the FBI allowed him to rise from small-time crook to notorious gangster. He is protected by FBI agent John Connelly (Edgerton) his childhood friend, all while his brother Billy (Cumberbatch) is a Massachusetts Senator at the time.

Themes of loyalty and family are huge in this film and stick with the audience throughout. What is more important, family or civic duty? The film toes that line to perfection.

One particular scene that stuck out to me as I was watching the movie was the scene at the dinner table where Bulger is enjoying a steak with Connelly and his partner John Morris (David Harbour). Bulger inquires Morris on the secret recipe he used to season the steak they are eating in which Morris insists it a family secret. Bulger keeps pushing and Morris gives the recipe up.

Bulger then chastises him for giving up what he said was “a family secret” just like that and questions what he would do with more important information. This keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat wondering what Bulger will do in the haunting way Depp presents the scene. What will he do next? You don’t know.

“Black Mass” represents the highest grossing film in the opening weekend in a Depp led film since 2013 and has everyone talking. Come February, Depp’s name could be mentioned among a select few for the Best Actor award at the Oscar’s.

I’m just saying, but as Bulger declares in the film “just saying can get you buried real quick.”

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