By: Kyle Casey, Contributing Writer
Chilling, dark and unsettling are accurate adjectives for describing Johnny Depp’s depiction of James “Whitey” Bulger in “Black Mass.”
Based on the true story of a South Boston gangster turned FBI informant, Depp’s portrayal of Bulger leaves viewers with a memorable and passionate performance.
This was not the typical, quirky, enjoyable Captain Jack Sparrow type of character usually seen from Depp.
No, this was Depp reaching a new level by taking his acting skills into uncharted territory with a non-Depp-like role, one in which he masterfully delivers.
Donning a leather jacket, Depp takes viewers into the rise and fall of Bulger and his childhood friend, FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton).
Presented at first as a happy-go-lucky, lovable character in his early years, Depp becomes a likable presence on the screen. But as life events turn anger into hate and betrayal, Depp takes the movie to another level.
Without Depp’s performance, “Black Mass” would have no redeeming qualities.
Edgerton and Bulger’s brother, William Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch), deliver admirable attempts to make each scene worthwhile, but when Depp is not on the screen, the film loses its charm. Movie viewers are forced to endure lethargic Depp-less stretches, leaving an empty feeling.
This gangster film lacked the balance of “Goodfellas” or “The Departed,” films which could excite and maintain interest throughout, without relying on one character.
“Black Mass” misses the mark on that attempt, and the plot does not go nearly deep enough for such a content-filled topic as Bulger’s life story.
Despite the film’s flaws, Depp rises above the adversity like few other actors can, which could very well get him his fourth career nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a leading role at next year’s Academy Awards.
Depp’s ability to often make viewers feel uneasy is what this film is about.
Every murder at the hands of Bulger is predictable, but Depp slowly builds up to each event with a calm, mysterious and disturbing demeanor that never fades.
Depp’s representation of Bulger mirrors Steve Carell’s work in “Foxcatcher” with two actors casted in unexpected roles given their past work who offer career-defining performances as a result of dark, disturbing character portrayals.
The blue-eyed, slick-haired Depp nails Bulger’s character with ease, and he makes the film worthwhile.
For those who want to see Grade-A acting and Depp’s dark side, look no further than “Black Mass.” I give this film 7.5 out of 10 stars.