Back in April I gave my initial thoughts on Black Mass and Johnny Depp after seeing the first trailer for the film. Well, the time has finally come to pass down my judgement on Johnny. Does Johnny electrify the screen as real life gangster Whitey Bulger? Will he restore his reputation as one of the all-time greats?
The answer is… Johnny and his film fall somewhere in the middle: neither amazing nor bad. Overall I really enjoyed Black Mass and Johnny Depp, but neither wowed me. Johnny gives a very good performance; menacing, charming, funny. The makeup and costuming seem to enhance his performance instead of distracting from it. It’s the closest Johnny has come to playing a genuine human being in a long time.
The fault with the film, which also hurts Depp, is that it is told neither from Whitey’s POV nor from John Connolly’s (played by the delicious Joel Edgerton). Whitey, of course, did not participate in the making of the film and has basically shit all over it and Depp (without having seen it). And since Connolly wouldn’t even testify against Whitey in real life, I highly doubt he contributed anything. This has a great effect on the film as neither Whitey nor Connolly is the main character, instead switching between the two constantly and relying constantly on the accounts of other characters. Because of this the film seems to have nothing to say. It is a great collection of some neat scenes and performances, but there is no direction to it. Is Whitey good, bad, a bit of both? Is Connolly? Yes, Connolly has a strong attachment to Whitey because of their childhood, but there must be a little more to it than that. The film does not explore any of this, instead just skimming the surface of the two men’s lives.
This lack of depth is what keeps the film from becoming anything other than pretty good. Joel Edgerton was the highlight for me as at least his character evolves and changes, unlike Whitey who remains static. Although the film acts as though he changes after two significant deaths in his life, but that change never comes across very well. The cast is all stellar except for Benedict Cumberbatch (he’s okay, but pretty much just a glorified cameo). I liked Black Mass, but it is just a Scorsese wannabe. 7 Joel Edgerton pouts out of 10.
And yes, Johnny did kind of win my love back. Just a little. (It’s so hard not to like the guy and he still has those killer cheekbones).
I used to be a huge Johnny Depp fan. For me he reached his peak around the time of Sweeney Todd. After Sweeney he has been on a downward slide, especially critically. Johnny has become a caricature of himself as seen in his last film, Mortdecai.
In the 90s Johnny had a string of indie hits and he could do no wrong. He did some great work in Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Johnny’s films weren’t always successful, but he seemed to take a lot of risks and to do very different roles.
Of course, Pirates of the Caribbean changed everything for Johnny. At first it seemed he was able to maintain his artistic integrity while making huge bucks fronting a blockbuster franchise. But an island and four (I think) pirate movies later and Johnny has become kind of pathetic. He is always donning a silly costume and his acting has become more exaggerated. Long gone is the subtlety of Donnie Brasco. Now it’s all about weird wigs and dramatic flourishes. So can Johnny, an actor once praised for his quiet, quirky talent make a comeback?
Black Mass is Johnny’s last chance at reclaiming his past glory. If Johnny can show off his acting chops again then his recent lackluster past will be easily forgotten. But if not, it will just reaffirm the fact that he is now a has-been.
This first trailer for Black Mass is very strong, incredibly promising. It’s one of the best cut trailers I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a great technique to take one small, dramatic scene from the movie and accentuate it with great music and brief flashes of the rest of the film. But maybe this is one of the only strong moments in the film, trailers often show off the best stuff first.
There’s also Johnny’s costume, which is both good and bad. I like the whitish grey contacts, they are really eerie and entrancing. But that forehead, my God they could have named this the forehead movie. And I don’t find the old age makeup all that convincing, but then again I don’t know how old the character should be.
As for the actors Johnny is surrounded by a great cast that we just get a glimpse of, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon, etc. Johnny’s acting here though is hard to judge. I think he is pretty good, but I also think the music adds a lot to the tension and helps him quite a bit. I also don’t find his accent to be very convincing. I think Johnny is acting more than actually inhabiting the character, but he definitely has me intrigued and hopeful.
It would be great for Johnny to succeed, but he’s become such a disappointment that I am doubtful. The studio has some faith in Black Mass as it is scheduled for release September 18, early in the awards season. Give your thoughts on Johnny and the trailer below. What are your favorite Johnny Depp films?
I’ve never read any of the Fifty Shades books. I try to be fairly open with what I’m willing to watch, so there’s a chance I would watch the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. But it is hard to get past the perception that the movie will only appeal to a certain demographic, namely middle aged women.
I will admit to being a little curious about the Fifty Shades movie. But wow, this trailer is boring. Maybe if the movie was rated NC 17, maybe if they were really willing to push the envelope this would be an interesting film. But instead it seems they are censoring it and taking the more kinky elements out. Which I can understand, too much sex and kink might just become a porno (although Nymphomaniac is a case against that line of thought).
Anyways, the biggest problem with this movie, which is very evident in the trailer, is that there is a severe lack of a plot. There is nothing going on story wise other than a girl engaging in S&M for the first time. I like films that are character driven and the two characters here (as well as the actors) come off as boring and bland. I don’t want to watch two wet pieces of cardboard get it on, I want to see Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt! I guess the point of the Fifty Shades books is that Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) is plain enough and so underwritten that anyone woman could imagine themselves in her place. But I don’t think that can translate onto the screen very well. Also I guess Christian Grey is supposed to be intimidating and drop dead sexy. But I’m not getting that vibe from Jamie Dornan at all. He is like a limp fish far as I can tell.
“Why are you trying to change me?” “I’m not. You’re the one that’s changing me.” The dialogue is clunky and cheesy. And to make matters worse, this movie is arriving in theaters on Valentine’s Day, 2015.
My say something nice: normally I hate Beyonce, but I really like the music in the trailer.