‘Black Mass’ aims for a human gangster film

16 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Black Mass’ aims for a human gangster film.

TORONTO — With director Scott Cooper’s Black Mass, South Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger joins Al Capone, John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde and other infamous gangsters on the big screen. While walking the red carpet at Tuesday night’s Coolidge Corner premiere of the movie, Depp was asked about what it was like to channel “one of the most hated, feared people in Boston.” “Anybody and everybody, especially the families of the victims, can say he’s just an evil person.The selling point of Black Mass is Johnny Depp’s portrayal of real-life mobster Whitey Bulger, but the Telluride Film Festival buzz belonged to his co-star, Joel Edgerton.Once upon a time, Johnny Depp was synonymous with artistic integrity, a heartthrob who counterintuitively evolved into a superstar by resisting his matinee-idol looks in favor of whacked-out character-actor roles that sparked his imagination. What superhero movies are to the zeitgeist now, mob films were to the 1930s and ’40s — as well as the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s, when Goodfellas, The Untouchables and The Godfather trilogy fascinated cinema culture.

Edgerton ditches his Australian accent to play John Connolly, an FBI agent who grew up with Bulger on Boston’s south side and later aided his flight from justice. And then Pirates of the Caribbean happened, and the rest is Bruckheimer-produced history Depp’s descent into self-parody has certainly been lucrative — these days, the man can buy islands the way the rest of us buy coffee — but his reputation isn’t what it used to be, (a few Mortdecais will do that to you). Yet I wondered what about the actors working opposite him when things go, shall we say, awry for their characters and they are up close and personal with a monster?

I think that people have their humanity, I think they have everything they’ve carried since they were children,” said Depp. “There’s a side to James Bulger that is not just that man who’s in that business, but that business that he was in — what was the language of that business? It was violence.” Patricia Donahue, whose husband Michael Donahue was shot to death by Bulger in 1982 while giving a ride home to a man that the gangster had targeted, said she was offended by Depp’s comments about Bulger having any redeeming qualities. “I think he should have spoken to the victims before he took on this movie or got the papers from the trial to see how these victims felt and what [Bulger] was really like,” Donahue said. “The people who are human are the people who were killed, not Bulger. This weekend’s Black Mass, in which the actor aims a loaded shotgun at our lowered expectations, could be the spark that ignites the Deppessaince. (Hey, if McConaughey gets one, our man Johnny should too). Johnny!” He spent about a half-hour signing autographs and posing for pictures and was joined by his co-star Johnson, who looked fab in a white and silver dress, as she pressed the flesh.

He’s a sicko, a psycho.” Donahue said she has no desire to see “Black Mass,” which includes a graphic scene in which her husband and his passenger, Brian Halloran, are riddled with bullets by Bulger after the gangster is tipped that Halloran is cooperating with the FBI against him. According to the actress, it wasn’t Depp opposite her – he’d disappeared. “That day we filmed was very quiet,” Johnson, 25, recalled at Toronto’s Shangri La Hotel Sunday. “There was a very heavy atmosphere on set — because Johnny was really not himself at all, he was completely another person. The stories about Bulger giving puppies to children and turkeys to poor families while he was running a sprawling criminal enterprise are evidence of manipulation, not kindness, Donahue said. Depp comes to the role after starring in such recent critically panned films as this year’s “Mortdecai,” the 2014 movie “Transcendence,” and 2013’s “The Lone Ranger.” “[Depp’s] co-stars are even better … Cumberbatch is so riveting and suavely unpleasant… [and] Edgerton… is full-throated and gripping,” wrote one.

I’m not a mother and I’ve never experienced anything as devastating as losing your child but we both slipped away from ourselves and created the scene.” When corrupt FBI agent John Connolly (a preening, delusional character brought vividly to life by Joel Edgerton) invites Bulger to dinner at their house his furious, scandalized wife (Julianne Nicholson) refuses to socialize and locks herself in the bedroom … and then Bulger comes knocking. However, Jesse Plemons, who played Kevin Weeks, director Scott Cooper and Scituate actress Erica McDermott, who played Billy Bulger’s wife, Mary, did walk the carpet. “It didn’t feel like work, I can tell you that much,” she laughed. “It was really exciting. In a scene that has been dubbed ‘the face rape,” Bulger creepily and revoltingly massages the terrified woman’s cheeks, all the while letting her know he could be doing much worse. “Scott doesn’t like rehearsal because things can happen the first time and he doesn’t want to miss that,” Nicholson, 44, said, adding, “I didn’t see Johnny that day until I opened the door– and he’d become that character with those eyes!

Though a jury did not find Bulger guilty in that killing — he was convicted in 2013 in a federal case that included 11 murders — her brother, Steve, also found Depp’s statements distateful. Join us as we look back at the good, bad, and very ugly of a truly unusual career. 2015 may not bring everything that Back to the Future II promised it would: flying cars, self-lacing shoes, we don’t see ’em happening over the next 12 months. (Then again, don’t bet against Nike.) But this year will definitely pack plenty of punch when it comes to cultural happenings. It was terrifying, thrilling and a little sexy, which was confusing.” My only visit to Ireland so far was a memorable overnighter in November 1989 when I flew from London to Belfast to visit the location filming of Ken Loach’s political thriller HIDDEN AGENDA (’90) which stars Frances McDormand in one of her earlier roles as an American human rights advocate who has come to this divided city to investigate whether there is a group of renegade British soldiers operating as an execution mob, kidnapping and murdering suspected IRA soldiers.

Another referenced the Martin Scorsese film “Goodfellas” and the movie “Scarface,” writing, “[Director Scott] Cooper’s working in a genre that’s become so familiar to us that we’re able to see most of his film’s beats coming before they arrive.” Many reviewers also felt a crucial aspect of the film was unexplored: the relationship between Bulger and his brother William Bulger, who became the president of the Massachusetts state Senate and president of the University of Massachusetts. Mad Max will roar back out of the apocalypse while Mad Men rides off into the sunset, rock’s Antichrist Superstar and hip-hop’s Yeezus will rise again. It’s a human story about a man who, you know, his brother took one road, he took the other.” Depp also said he tried to get into contact with Bulger to get as truthful as a representation as possible for his portrayal of Boston’s most infamous gangster. The relationship is “potential dramatic dynamite, yet it’s almost entirely unexplored,” one reviewer wrote, while another called it “a fascinating dynamic that could have – and should have – been more fleshed out in the film.” One reviewer felt that “Mass” was not admiring of Bulger or his doings, writing that the film “scarcely glamorizes Bulger’s complete allegiance to a life of crime,” but another called Depp’s portrayal of Bulger “undeniably charismatic.” And no matter how the movie portrays him, Bulger is still being played by Depp, one of the biggest movie stars in the world. He was doing, especially in that period, everything that people would have loved to been able to do.” The mythology of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather and others of its ilk allowed Cooper to go from his everyday life in southwestern Virginia “into this Italian world that I just found intoxicating and riveting and (that’s) still in my marrow, honestly.” “It would have been easy to dive into this thing as if it were just simply a gangster film,” the actor says. “What Scott caught onto right off the bat was, ‘No, man, this is a story about people.

Some have felt crime movies make the lifestyle look appealing as far back as the 1967 movie “Bonnie and Clyde.” Interestingly, Bulger himself recently weighed in on this. Then with Loach leading the way we went outside into the grey day, got into several small cars – there were no trailers for hair/make-up or the actors, no camera trucks, it was all hand held — and we sped off to film bits and pieces of car scenes. Carney Jr., responded a week later stating that Bulger was respectfully declining “based on the fact that it’s a film, movie, that stems from a book that he’s not, let’s say, most enthusiastic about.”

Whitey Bulger has another perspective, as does John Connolly. … So, the truth was extremely elusive. “What I did want to capture was the essence of these men, and the scars they left on the city. … I didn’t want to make a movie about criminals who happen to be human; I wanted to make a movie about humans who happen to be criminals.” The story was told on screen before, in 1998’s superb IMAX documentary with the same title, available mainly at museums. After high school students wrote to him asking about the idea of legacy, he wrote back, “There are many people more deserving of your time and interests… Don’t waste your time on such as I… My life was wasted and spent foolishly.” The new, dramatized version gives multiplexers the IMAX option plus doomed stud muffins Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin and Sam Worthington, with Keira Knightley, Robin Wright and Elizabeth Debicki worrying down below. Now HIDDEN AGENDA is on Blu-ray and DVD (Kino Classics, rated R) and what emerges is a fairly engrossing paranoid conspiracy tale that has a very low-key pulse but a keen appreciation for the way horrors happen in the most nonchalant way, whether it’s the brutal arrest of a young woman in her home for the ‘crime’ of talking to McDormand, a woman unable to make sure her baby will be taken care of before she’s hauled outside to be taken to the police station, or a murder and subsequent police cover-up which echoes much of what we continue to see today.

Tragedy offers director Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns) plenty of thrilling visual opportunities: freakish blizzard conditions, close calls, daring escapes, Gyllenhaal’s beard. No American distributor is yet set for the film which began as a hit stage musical at Britain’s National Theatre where Norris is now the recently appointed director, succeeding Nicholas Hytner (whose Maggie Smith comedy THE WOMAN IN THE VAN was also at TIFF). There was a Museum of Modern Art screening Monday night of the blistering, disturbing documentary PEACE OFFICER which details the rise of the militarization of police forces around the country and subsequent murders – or perhaps the SWAT teams would prefer to call them “accidents” – of innocent people whose homes are stormed in the dead of night by teams of camo wearing, bullet proof vest sporting, helmeted POLICE! Yet any anticipation of a sequel was diluted by the movie’s closing minutes, moving the action to less aesthetic surroundings and the plot toward something too familiar after The Hunger Games and Divergent. This time Thomas and his fellow escapees face a desert obstacle course known as the Scorch Trials, searching for clues about the insidious WCKD organization that’s behind everything.

What would any normal person do — especially someone with a gun by their bed, if they heard a side door breaking down and a gang with no visible signs saying they are ‘POLICE’ rush in with weapons? Not exactly a ratings blockbuster this summer AQUARIUS: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Blu-ray, Anchor Bay, not rated but drug use, mucho sexual shenanigans) on NBC marked David Duchovny’s return to a network series after years on cable’s freer expanses with CALIFORNICATION.

A period drama set in 1967 LA – the “Summer of Love” – a few years before Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) and his band of deranged, drug- and sex- addled followers slaughtered pregnant Sharon Tate and several others, AQUARIUS has that automatic creep factor by presenting the cult leader as a major character, a bisexual power-mad psychopath whose earlier stint in prison “freed” him to indulge in whatever revengeful scenario strikes his fancy. Duchovny’s LAPD detective Sam Hodiak is like his bearish namesake a brutal sort whose soldier son has been encouraged to go AWOL by his estranged wife – not a good move during this Vietnam War thing where the draft was in effect and where his foolhardy actions might mean decades behind bars (with the likes of Manson is one implication). AQUARIUS, which in the Blu-ray offers unrated, extended episodes and webisodes, has a lot going for it — if you can shake off the feeling that somehow as icky as he’s presented, any show that puts Manson center stage is basically icky as well by glorifying a demon.

O’Bryne as a closeted attorney under Manson’s thumb and Michaela McManus as Duchovny’s old flame now unhappily married to the lawyer with a teenage daughter (Emma Dumont) who’s run away to join Manson’s cult.

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