Imagine it's a sweltering summer afternoon. The asphalt's nearly melting. Humidity is through the roof. You've just finished a few hours of yard work, and you're parched. All you want is a Coke. But there's no Coke in the fridge. Or at the store. The only soda anywhere is RC. "Fucking RC." you think. "RC can suck my sweaty balls."
Black Mass is the RC of gangster movies.
From its title right on down the line, Black Mass is a hot mess. If you didn't already know it was about legendary Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, the title would have you wondering if it's a documentary about miner's lung, a drama centered on a Southern gospel church or a sci-fi story about a dark, evil energy bent on destroying all the Coke in the universe.
Sure, it's awesome to see Johnny "Dippity" Depp not playing yet another variation of the sofa-cushion-saltine-stale "wacky" character he's been milking for the past 12 years in Pirates of the Caribbean, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows, The Lone Ranger, Tusk, Into the Woods and Mortdecai. And yet, as Bulger, Depp is all hairpiece, makeup and dead-eyed stare. It's like Tim Burton beat the good actor right out of him.
Depp is surrounded by a rogues gallery of well-knowns and will-be-knowns all giving the same, boring as fuck one-note performances as him. Whether it's "Eggs" Benedict Cumberbatch as Bulger's senator brother, Joel "Oi!" Edgerton as his FBI handler or Kevin "Mmm" Bacon as Edgerton's boss, they all seem like they're only there because some real life crime lord threatened to send their kids back in little pieces if they didn't appear in the movie.
No matter what any of them are doing - from assuring their concerned spouses that they're not crooked to schmoozing each other over steak dinners to bludgeoning someone to death - their energy level is somewhere between asleep and comatose. Did they film this shit in Colorado? Because everyone is way too weed-cloud mellow for the feel-bad Oscar bait film of the year.
I wouldn't want anyone to compare my bank account to Bill Gates' or my looks to Brad Pitt's, but there's about as much chance of that as there is of a cat curing cancer. When you make a gangster movie, though, it's nece-fucking-sarily going to be stacked up against the greats that have come before it. The Godfathers and the Goodfellas. Black Mass isn't fit to carry their cannolis.
It sure as winos' tears on a Sunday mornin' sidewalk doesn't help that the best bits of Bulger's story have already been told in the super-superior The Departed. Nicholson's Frank Costello is the Bulger we need, the Bulger we deserve.
And let me tell you something, director Scott "Pooper" Cooper, if you stick a sore thumb, narrative voice-over in the middle of your movie explaining that Bulger "was never the same" after his mom died but you have Depp play Bulger exactly the fucking same before and after that voice-over, and then people laugh at you and call you "Pooper," that's 100% on you.
September 27, 2015