Let’s be honest, the words ‘Johnny’ and ‘Depp’ have in the last few years spelt the kiss of death for any movie. Mr Depp’s quirk ‘n’ dreads heyday appeared to have long passed. So when The Sloth heard he was to star in 1970’s gangster epic Black Mass, we didn’t exactly hold our breath.
Black Mass follows the real life exploits of Jimmy ‘Whitey’ Bulger (Johnny Depp), a small time Boston crook who expanded his empire to that of a full sized crime Kingpin. Jimmy was born in Southy, a rough area of South Boston (no!) where blood was far thicker than water and alliances forged by kids on the streets held fast through later life.
So why should Jimmy be of interest amongst the countless other ne’er do wells history has produced? Well firstly because Jimmy had a successful brother, Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch – clearly the casting director was gunning for matching sibling cheekbones), who broke out of his street kid mould to become the State Senator, no less. Secondly because Jimmy was recruited as an informant by FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who saw him as an asset in the FBI’s attempts to bring down the local Mafia, who were rivals to Jimmy’s own gang.
You know what you’re getting with ‘70’s crime epics and Black Mass doesn’t disappoint. Grainy visuals – check. 18 foot long cars with spongy suspension – check. Characters called ‘Suitcase’ with faces like pigs bladders stuffed with an assortment of spanners – check. Cuddly old ladies who are delighted to see the local violent nutter back home after a stint in Alcatraz – check.
But what about the million dollar question, does Johnny pull it off? We’re delighted and frankly a bit surprised to say, yes he does. Granted, we spent the first 30 minutes gawping at his enormous prosthetic moon-like forehead and receding hairline, but his usual penchance for tics and quirks are muted, his energy channelled instead into creating a psychopathic character of blood chilling proportions. A scene where Jimmy calmly torments John’s terrified wife Marianne (Julianne Nicholson) had The Sloth squirming in shared fear. Welcome back Johnny. Here’s to a revitalised career in monstrous sociopaths.
UK release 27 November