For Reel

Black Mass (2015)
October 5, 2015, 2:20 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Scott Cooper
2.5 Stars
Black MassIn the opening sequence of Black Mass, Kevin Weeks (Jesse Plemons) of the Winter Hill Gang cooperates with authorities by revealing information about James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) and associates. Shot in close-up, Plemons stares directly at the camera in a vindictive, challenging way–although he’s been made to talk, he’s still disgusted by the idea of it. Cut to a flashback of Weeks’ early days in the gang–no longer in close-up, but a small outsider struggling to make it as a bouncer, dwarfed by his environment and the cast around him. The movie all but abandons Weeks after this initial sequence, and therein lies the fatal flaw of Black Mass. Both the screenplay and the filmmaking insist at importance without the follow-through–this is a film where a man’s child is declared sick, and later when it is mentioned that the child has passed away it is treated as an aside. The cast involves an embarrassment of riches but there is little sense of how to balance the personalities or unveil what is interesting about their relationships. As Bulger, Depp suffocates his own movie–there’s little sense of what drew anybody to Bulger, nor any sense of growth throughout the picture, rather a heedless reveling in Depp’s one-note menace. Worse yet, his make-up and the very unreality of his presentation is at odds with many of his co-stars, namely the terrific Rory Cochran in the film’s most affecting performance. Depp’s snarls cut with Cochran’s defeated, conflicted stares highlight the incongruities among the cast, not to mention it represents another missed opportunity in creating a dramatic conflict that breathes beyond a single scene.

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