Johnny Depp – Tim Burton = Good Movies

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Johnny Depp’s career has never recovered from the humongous disaster that was The Tourist. Not many actors have made such poor choices as consistently as Depp with his constant collaborations with Tim Burton particularly galling. With Black Mass. Depp has returned to the a genre that has served him well in the past.

Donnie Brasco is arguably the actors finest hour and Blow is also a fan favourite. Black Mass seemed a pretty safe bet for Depp to get back on track and it doesn’t disappoint. A brilliant ensemble cast featuring Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon and David Harbour ensure that Depp’s Whitey Bulger is almost a supporting player in his own story.

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The real life story of Chicago mobster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger is so outlandish that when combined with such a star studded cast, director Scott Cooper was always likely to have a winner on his hands. Having said that Depp had a lot to do to transform himself to Bulger, particularly physically, and he makes for an imposing and dangerous crime king pin.

There is a scene in Donnie Brasco where the undercover cop Brasco (played by Depp) is asked to remove his shoes in a oriental restaurant. Brasco has a microphone in his shoe and has to find a solution while suspicion and tension builds. It is one of my all time favourite scenes. You will normally encounter a similar scene in most gangster movies and Black Mass is no different. A particularly tense scene at the dinner table finds Depp at his most sinister but there are many films in this genre that have done the same thing first and more convincingly, not least The Departed which saw Jack Nicholson portray a character also based on Bulger, and do it better than Depp ever could.

Black Mass is not the film to save Johnny Depp’s career or even to reignite it but it is definitely a stop in the right direction.