Black Mass (2015)

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Keep Your Enemies Close
Black Mass is directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace) and has a huge lineup. They include Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean, Alice in Wonderland), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Star Trek Into Darkness), Dakota Johnson (50 Shades of Grey, Need for Speed), Joel Edgerton (The Gift, Warrior), Kevin Bacon (Apollo 13, Footloose)....the list goes on. "The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf". Will this be the revival of Johnny Depp? or is it just another crowded wannabe awards contender?

I was actually really looking forward to this film - all of the trailers looked really interesting and I actually thought that this might be an awards contender that everyone enjoys and is routing for. Johnny Depp hasn't really been a lead character in a good film for a while - he has been in flop after flop after flop. Even from the trailers you can see that Depp is physically unrecognisable in this film - he is just a really good character actor. I also was looking forward to see a film that looked at gangsters and crime in the past as I feel like it is an area that hasn't been covered by many films recently (other than Legend). Black Mass is a disappointing film and is extremely slow paced. However, there are some factors that really do save it. 

One of these factors is the acting - no-one in this cast lets anyone down - they are all fantastic. The film is a little overcrowded and it is a little hard to remember every characters names and how they are related to all of the other characters. The best performance by far came from Johnny Depp who has truly made a comeback with this role - his portrayal was absolutely fantastic. We actually got to see Depp play someone who wasn't the mad, eccentric character. Eddie Redmayne has recently become quite a good 'physically changing' actor so maybe Redmayne is the much more serious version of Depp? Depp just be really pleased with his work on this film as he has really done a nice job. It was also nice to see Cumberbatch play a different character - Even though he is a good actor, he always seems to play the same character in every film - in Black Mass, he was able to change his accent! ;). Now, who I was really surprised with in this film was Dakota Johnson - I didn't actually know she was in the film until she appeared on screen and my initial reaction was 'That's the girl from 50 Shades' - I thought she was very good in this film and she redeemed herself for her not-so-great acting in Fifty Shades of Grey earlier this year. Joel Edgerton was also very good - his style of acting reminded me a lot of Jeremy Renner in American Hustle. It was also funny to see Kevin Bacon in a film who has taken a back seat from Hollywood in recent years - he was good here. Like I said before, the cast for this film is extremely talented and they all prove that with their performances here. 

The next stand out factor (which will probably earn the film an Oscar win) was the makeup - this was done absolutely fantastically. All of the actors looked unrecognisable with the makeup and prosthetics  on. I think the performances wouldn't seem as good if the actors didn't look as in character as this makeup makes them look. Even though with most films, this is only a minor feature, for Black Mass it is definitely one of its standout qualities. 

That is all of the extremely positive things I have to say about the film as I thought one thing that let the whole thing down was the slow pacing. The film did have moments that were action packed and fast paced but these just came across as random due to the pacing in the rest of the film. Black Mass is very dialogue-heavy and when it is spoken by characters with quite strong accents, sometimes you do not catch all of that dialogue which makes the film even more confusing. I have to admit, for a lot of this film, I did not have a clue what was going on. I thought the story was pretty mediocre and didn't really have a clear plot at all. The trailers also made it seem like the film was going to be very music-heavy with a kind of juxtaposition of current music with an old story - this wasn't the case and I have to say, the score for this film wasn't really anything I was paying attention to. It is such a shame that this is such a huge flaw as the film ticks boxes for both acting and visual appeal. The story itself just isn't that substantial. There are also quite a few loose ends that aren't tied at the end - for example, Bulger's wife just disappears randomly and is never mentioned or seen again. 

I briefly mentioned this before but Black Mass is very violent and quite gory which I suppose is good for a gangster film. However, because of the messy dialogue and strong accents, when a character was shot, it just came as a surprise to me and I didn't really understand why they were being shot. This actually made it seem that the killings were quite pointless and just for sport. There is a moment where the film drags out a strangling scene which some may find exciting but I just found it quite hard to watch. 

I haven't took anything away from Black Mass like I did from a spectacular film like Sicario - none of the cinematography stands out, there was no effective moods or tones in my opinion - it was just pretty dull. 

Black Mass has misled its audience in the marketing and is much duller and extremely slow paced. There is no denying that everyone puts on a good performance with the standout being Johnny Depp. The makeup team have also put in a lot of handwork and it has certainly paid off. However, it is unclear why so much effort has been put in and the end result is a dull, slow paced piece of mediocre-ness. 


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