While none will argue that Johnny Depp‘s recent films – Mortdecai, Transcendence, The Lone Ranger, Dark Shadows, The Rum Diary – weren’t flops both commercially and critically, Depp has still remained one of the most popular leading men in Hollywood. So while the term “comeback” can be debated among cinephiles, the fact remains that Scott Cooper‘s Black Mass could do a lot to help the actor get out of what has been perceived to at least be a very long slump. The good news then, for Depp, is that the reviews for Black Mass after premiering at the Venice Film Festival have been positive and Depp’s performance as notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger seems to have impressed audiences and critics enough for the actor to earn some early awards buzz.
Most critics have agreed that Cooper’s Black Mass is a well-made yet flawed entry into the gangster genre. While the film has gotten positive praise, reviews are consistent in stating that the work is far from perfect. Critics have noted how Cooper tries his best to channel Martin Scorsese – who similarly used Whitey Bulger as an inspiration for Jack Nicholson‘s character in The Departed – but doesn’t always hit the mark. Still, most agree that Black Mass is a worthy addition to the crime canon, and Depp’s performance seems to be the unnerving, menacing highlight of a twisted criminal underworld in 1970s South Boston.
Most reviewers concede that Depp’s turn as Bulger is his best performance in a long time and there is similar agreement regarding his ability to disappear into his performance, coming off as unrecognizable to some. In three films, Cooper is steadily becoming a filmmaker on the rise- his debut feature Crazy Heart earned two Academy Awards including one for veteran actor Jeff Bridges. He followed that up the ambitious 2013 thriller Out of the Furnace starring Christian Bale (American Hustle) and Casey Affleck (Interstellar).
The signs are promising that Black Mass will be a welcome return for Depp, and perhaps the beginning of a new string of impressive, inspired, and challenging roles for the character actor. Then again, the actor (who was Oscar nominated for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Finding Neverland and Sweeney Todd) will next be seen in Through the Looking Glass, a sequel to the 2010 live action take of Alice in Wonderland and a fifth Pirates film. At any rate, Black Mass is slated for release on September 18, 2015.