Movie review: Johnny Depp is the best he’s been in years in “Black Mass”

When you walk out of a movie like “Black Mass,” you have to decompress. This movie is a two-hour ride into darkness and brutality, and at the center of it all is Johnny Depp as gangster James “Whitey” Bulger.

We’ll just get this out of the way right up front: Movie flaws aside, Johnny Depp is fantastic. He’s creepy, slimy, and you can tell there’s something off about him as soon as you see him. The movie follows him from 1975-1985, the 10-year period the FBI partnered with him. It sounds crazy, but the goal was to take down the Italian mafia, and in the process Bulger got to do whatever he wanted.

It’s a story that’s too insane to be true, but it is, nonetheless. That’s the most compelling thing about “Black Mass.” The acting in this movie is incredible. Depp, as mentioned, is fantastic. Joel Edgerton played FBI agent John Connolly. He’s the man who covered up Bulger’s crimes and, eventually, got sent to prison for it. Benedict Cumberbatch is Billy Bulger and probably the only good main character in this movie. He doesn’t interfere with what his brother does, though he is not directly involved in the activities.

The movie’s biggest flaw is that there is no one to really latch onto and follow, because each of these main character is a terrible person. They do awful things and get away with them, and that ends up making the movie feel very emotionally hollow. You leave this movie feeling cold and maybe that was its intent. Whatever the intent, though, it certainly isn’t a good feeling to come away with.

“Black Mass” also is very violent. If you’ve seen many gangster films, it’s nothing new. But it still isn’t fun to watch at times. Bulger guns down people in the street, strangles a man who betrayed him, even shoots a man in the head just for insulting him. It’s a dark movie to sit through.

In the end, I’d say if you love great performances and a well told, story see it. (If you can take a whole lot of harsh profanity and some pretty brutal moments, that is.) It lacks an emotional core and ends up feeling very hollow, but the performances and a few really well done and tense scenes make up for it. It’s not perfect, but it’s one of the better movies to come out this month, and a good prelude to the coming Oscar season.

Rating: 3.5/5 If you can take harsh violence and language I’d say check it out. If not. I hear “Hotel Transylvania 2” is pretty good.