There’s no question that Johnny Depp is one of the most successful movie stars on the planet. There’s also no question that some of his latest box office attempts have been… stinkers. Between Mortdecai, Transcendence, The Lone Ranger, The Rum Diary and The Tourist, lately it seems as though Depp has just played over-the-top, cartoonish characters that no one really cares about.
That makes it pretty hard for us to remember the actor’s glory days. Edward Scissorhands? Donnie Brasco? Anyone?
As James “Whitey” Bulger in the new flick Black Mass, though, Depp might be making an overdue comeback. Thanks to some hefty hair and make-up transformations, a toned down role and a real-life gangster on which to base his performance, we were definitely reminded of old school Johnny when we saw the film recently at the Toronto International Film Festival.
A few signs he might be making a comeback…
This is what we’d call “refined”
Whitey Bulger was the feared leader of the White Hill Gang in South Boston during the 1970s. A reported sociopath, the man wasn’t afraid to kill anyone who got in his way — and plenty of people got in his way. In Black Mass Depp pulls off those mannerisms with conviction — so much so that when Whitey’s real life lawyer came to set (the real man is currently in jail), he told director Scott Cooper that it was like looking at Whitey’s ghost.
The hair and makeup is actually amazing
When we first saw the movie poster, we couldn’t quite believe this was Depp at all — it looked more like John Malkovich. To say were weren’t fans would be an understatement. But somehow during the actual film, we began to believe this Whitey guy was real. There were zero traces of Depp.
“It’s magic, what he does. There’s the exterior, of course, but it was something coming from the inside that was the most affecting thing,” says Depp’s co-star Julianne Nicholson.
This isn’t just the story of Whitey Bulger
If it were, that would put way more pressure on Depp to nail the performance (even though we think he does anyway). Instead, this is the story of Bulger and his relationship to childhood friend and FBI Agent John Connolly (played by Joel Edgerton), who put Bulger in the books as a confidential informant to help him get away with crimes. Together, Edgerton and Depp have some pretty notable scenes.
Did we mention Benedict Cumberbatch?
The king of cumberbitches practically guarantees a box office hit these days, doesn’t he? In Black Mass Cumberbatch plays Bulger’s straighter-edged brother, Billy Bulger. And even though he’s not in the film enough for our liking, he elevates Depp’s performance every time they’re on screen together.
Also, just look at who’s playing his wife
#50ShadesOfThisIsAWayBetterMovie. Good call, Dakota Johnson.
We’re obsessed with gangsters
Between The Sopranos and The Godfather, we just can’t get our fill of gangster movies. Here Depp puts on a South Boston accent, but we can’t help but be reminded of his performance in another gangster great: Donnie Brasco.
Whitey Bulger is kind of a legend
How else do you describe a man whose story has been told so many times now that we no longer know what’s fact or fiction? This status means that director Scott Cooper and Depp could play around with the character a little more than most — especially after the real Bulger refused to meet Depp for the role since he wasn’t “a fan” of the book Black Mass on which this film is based.
Depp has come back from stinkers before
Really, a couple of box office bombs is nothing to “cry” over. Plus after early screenings of Black Mass, various reviews are already calling Depp “chilling” and “sensational,” and are dubbing this “the performance of a lifetime.”
Depp himself is calling this a career revival
“I want to thank Scott Cooper for reviving my career,” Depp said at TIFF’s Black Mass press conference, not even pretending that he doesn’t know it. The actor did go on say the standard answers like “box office numbers are none of my business” and credit the great script, but in the end, he made sure to thank Cooper again for “reviving my career.”
Well if that doesn’t sell an Oscar nom, we don’t know what will.
Black Mass hits theatres Thursday, Sept. 17.