With this movie, Johnny Depp has placed himself on this year's long list for Best Actor. However, despite a fascinating story of an equally intriguing character, Scott Cooper failed to really explore beneath the superficiality to uncover what could have been a complex character study.
Depp was really not very different here in this film than his last offerings. He has completely changed himself physically but the only difference now is that Black Mass is not a Disney film. He was creepy as hell, with an icy cold stare that would freeze even the White Walkers of GOT, and he really did inhabit the character - losing himself but without the caricature-tendency of Jack Sparrow or The Mad Hatter.
The story by Jez Butterworth and Mark Mallouk was straightforward but as aforementioned, it focused more on the life of James Bulger rather than explore deeper into the man himself. What that resulted in was a missed opportunity to mine the rich relationship dynamics that existed between Bulger and John Connolly (played by Joel Edgerton), his brother William Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his partners.
Martin Scorcese's The Departed (and the original HK version) had it right when they really dug into the relationship between a criminal and the law-enforcer. So, although Depp was up to par, Edgerton was not given enough material to make Connolly anything more than two-dimensional.
Similarly, Cumberbatch was wasted here as the younger brother and Senator. That relationship could have been a whole movie by itself exploring the complex co-existence of blood and money, and of power and familiarity.
David Harbour and Julianne Nicholson stood out amongst the rest of the extended cast, with Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Rory Cochrane and a late-entry Corey Stoll rounding out the large cast.
Music was by Junkie XL which was really different from what he did for Mad Max: Fury Road. But that cello at the end was awesome.
In the end, this suffered from the Iton Lady syndrome - a good actor but a story that failed him.