Depp’s Award-Worthy Performance in ‘Black Mass’

Gina Mantica ’16
Assistant Arts Editor

Directed by Scott Cooper, the movie “Black Mass” tells the fascinating and true story of the most famous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, James “Whitey” Bulger. He became an FBI informant in order to take down a rival mafia family invading his turf and committed countless crimes with the help of his Winter Hill Gang. “Black Mass” recounts Bulger’s tale through the stories of captured and convicted members of his old gang, beginning from when he started as an informant in 1975 and ending with his arrest in 2011.

Johnny Depp’s performance as Bulger in “Black Mass” is worthy of an Academy Award. He is captivating throughout. Even in scenes in which the most he does is sit and listen to one of his gang members discuss plans, Depp keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. In addition, Depp’s altered facial expressions, gestures and movements throughout the movie are remarkable in showing how Bulger aged and changed over time.

Depp also shows a real capacity to express the tortured and deranged aspects of Bulger. This is most evident during scenes in which his character killed any person he assumes to be a threat. The most shocking scene that highlights Depp’s talent is when he murders the stepdaughter of one of his gang members. The stepdaughter had spent the night in jail, and Bulger was clearly anxious that she would spill incriminating information to the police.

However, Depp’s acting makes Bulger appear to truly care for the girl. He brings the stepdaughter to a house, which he explains is for her to stay in. At this moment, the audience begins to believe that Bulger has some sort of soft side in his cold heart. This faith is immediately broken when Depp’s character appears to switch. The compassion in Depp’s eyes fades, and before audience members realize what is about to happen, he chokes her to death. This shift in character is beautiful in its deliberateness, but it is so subtle that the switch is believable and makes Bulger out to be a twisted and paranoid killer.

In addition to Depp’s performance, “Black Mass” features a cast of other extremely talented actors including Benedict Cumberbatch, Adam Scott and Joel Edgerton, who all enhance the movie’s cinematic qualities.

Because the story of Bulger is so widely known, the movie about his life as a crime boss needed to keep the audience intrigued. This cast alone, is able to keep audience members on the edge of their seats with their impeccable performances.

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