‘Black Mass’ co-authors share experiences with taking book to Hollywood

19 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Black Mass’ review: Johnny Depp gives best performance in years as gangster Whitey Bulger.

Johnny Depp’s portrayal of reputed Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger is as fabricated as his performances as Jack Sparrow and the Mad Hatter, Bulger’s defense attorney Hank Brennan tells The Hollywood Reporter.

After years of roles that led Johnny Depp into cartoonish directions that didn’t quite connect with audiences, the Pirates of the Caribbean actor returns in strong form with Black Mass.LOS ANGELES — From a blonde-wigged, red-lipped transgender woman in Before Night Falls to the maniacal Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, Johnny Depp’s on-screen looks have been as diverse as his film roles.

Depp stars in the thriller Black Mass, which opened Friday and is based on the 2001 book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob. Playing real-life Boston crime lord James “Whitey” Bulger, Depp has received near-unanimous praise for his chilling performance, but can the rest of the film and its deep bench of supporting players live up to that central role? The trend continues with his latest movie, Black Mass, in which his character of notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger marks yet another physical departure for the chameleonic actor (who actually voiced a chameleon in the animated picture Rango). Granted, it’s another stunt performance in a career defined by them – the actor has amassed more crazy teeth, hairpieces, contact lenses and other miscellaneous prosthetics than probably every other A-lister combined, and freely indulged the broad gesticulations and funny voices that go with them.

Black Mass follows Bulger as he finds himself caught between his criminal life and acting as an FBI informant in an attempt to protect the area he claims from an invading Mafia family. All of these miscellaneous distractions are present in his riff on Bulger, whose visual presence is striking: piercing blue eyes behind amber glasses, slicked silver hair, tobacco-stained teeth. Concerning the accuracy of events, in his opinion, all Brennan said was, “It got some of the names right.” Brennan contends that the book is “pure fantasy.” According to Brennan, both Depp and Black Mass director Scott Cooper knew this, which is why both men were so set on meeting the 87-year-old, who is currently serving two life sentences in a Florida prison. “They couldn’t get the facts straight, so they tried to get the character straight,” he says. “They were so desperate to meet him so they could legitimize their movie.” Calling Depp’s interpretation of Bulger a “joke,” Brennan said the previously Oscar-nominated star got it all wrong. “[Bulger] doesn’t act like that; he doesn’t talk like that, in that whisper voice that sounds like Gollum,” Brennan said. “When you play a character that exists or existed, there’s a stronger responsibility that you have,” Depp said. “You owe that person and then you owe the family, you owe history, you owe the victims, the victims’ families. Bulger is connected to the FBI by his deal struck with John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), while his brother and Massachusetts senator Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch) must reconcile his family loyalty with Bulger’s actions. English has a new book out about Bulger titled, “Where the Bodies Were Buried: Whitey Bulger and the World That Made Him.” English joins “CBS This Morning: Saturday” to discuss the movie and Bulger’s history.

Aside from scissors for hands, the iconic character also has a scarred face as pale as snow and an unruly nest of jet black hair that rivaled Burton’s real-life locks. Bulger and since he was not particularly a great fan of the book … and many of the other books written about him, I got a beautiful response through his attorney that said ‘Mr. But as well-crafted and well-acted as it is, it never rises to greatness because we’ve been watching this story in one way or another going back to the time of Jimmy Cagney and Edward G. With Bozo-like red hair, unblinking emerald eyes, gap teeth, bushy eyebrows, and makeup that makes coulrophobia a most rational fear, Depp’s Hatter is as mad as it gets in Burton’s 2010 adaptation. Embedded in Depp’s performance is the implication of a hard life, a man whose sociopathy is the result of his primal desire to be Boston’s silverback gorilla.

Whitey may now be in good (which is to say, bad) company, but he’s still the same old monster.” Read on for more on what Nashawaty and other critics from around the country though of Black Mass, its cast, and perhaps most importantly of all, the Boston accents. “… 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: the hair-trigger outbursts of violence, the whispered-threat monologues, the montages of corruption, and the double crosses that eventually tighten the noose around Connolly and send Whitey on the lam.” “Bulger shows up regularly and imparts The World According to Whitey life lessons like, ‘If nobody sees it, it didn’t happen.’ Finally, however, Bulger is a scary, menacing individual, and attempts to paint him as otherwise are doomed to failure. To see him simultaneously flirt with and threaten Connolly’s wife, Marianne (Julianne Nicholson), is to see both a nightmare in flesh and blood and one of the most indelible moments in Johnny Depp’s career.” “Is there any sympathy for the devil that is Whitey? He channeled Michael Jackson with his androgynous take on the classic character, which included a sleek brown bob, translucent skin, and pearly white choppers that were as terrifying as fangs.

Its best moments are rooted in the hypocrisy of character; a common element of stories featuring murderous characters as protagonists is how coldly they deal out death, despite experiencing great grief and pain upon losing a loved one. Bulger’s advice to his young son (Luke Ryan), who got in trouble for striking a classmate, is darkly comic: Next time, don’t punch the offending party while others are looking. Although he fit the part of a 19th-century vampire in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Depp didn’t actually play one until his role as Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows.

As Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth’s screenplay – based on nonfiction accounts by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill – depicts it, the boy’s passing dovetails with an opportunity for the gangster to rule the Boston underworld. Cumberbatch reveals Billy’s loyalty in the space between words.” “The psychological push-pull between the Bulger brothers and Connolly alone would provide Black Mass with a fascinating cat-and-mouse dynamic. Although he’s only onscreen for a few minutes, Depp leaves a lasting impression as a trangendered woman with flamboyant moves who steals a kiss from Javier Bardem. Wearing a makeshift “skirt” and a boa as a haler top, Depp topped off the look with a blonde wig, hot pink headband, red lipstick and long, flirty lashes. The film spends considerable time with Connolly, who obfuscates justice and wriggles out of his boss’ (Kevin Bacon) grip, trumpeting Bulger as playing a key part in their success taking down the Italians.

Even though this look isn’t as drastic of a departure from his real-life persona, the actor is still wonderfully weird as drug-addled Raoul Duke in a bucket hat, Hawaiian shirt, and giant yellow aviators. Edgerton is strong in the role, understating the character’s loathsome, slippery nature; he and Depp justify the picture’s existence, their engrossing performances offsetting Scott Cooper’s (“Crazy Heart,” “Out of the Furnace”) unremarkable direction.

Cooper’s direction is skillful, if overly reliant on borrowed Scorseseisms (especially when it comes to music), and the cast is first-rate, but the film is a muddle of secondhand attitudes and half-baked ideas. Connolly justifies his actions with loyalty – borough blood runs thick and deep, and he still shares Christmas-ham dinners with the Bulger family, which also includes Whitey’s brother Billy (an underused, slightly miscast Benedict Cumberbatch), a politician who served in both the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives. With ratty clothes, rotting teeth, and dirty dreadlocks and braids in his hair and beard, Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow found a mainstream audience in the mega-successful Disney franchise. More distracting than Depp’s costume is the film’s storytelling structure, which sprawls from the 1970s nearly to the present, a series of flashbacks employing several points of view via modern depositions by some of Bulger’s key goons. You can feel the chill, whether it’s a light dusting of snow that none of the characters seem dressed for, or the sudden fear of a South Boston outsider who realizes he’s in over his head.

Earl Brown, Corey Stoll, David Harbour, Peter Sarsgaard – the narrative never really functions cleanly. (Why would Bulger’s thugs be privy to moments from their boss’ private life?) But Depp is a good enough reason to endure the screenplay’s unnecessary density and an onslaught of overwrought Bahstan ax-cents. More problematically, the movie gives short shrift to the social canvas that’s specific to this town, that can create a Jimmy Bulger (and a Billy Bulger) in hermetically sealed enclaves of class and clan and poverty and potential.” “Edgerton’s physicality takes the movie. With milky skin, red circles under his eyes, massive sideburns, and frizzy hair featuring a white streak, Depp scared up a third Oscar nomination for Sweeney Todd in 2008. When he’s strutting and strolling around the office, or virtually floating to heaven as a cluster of agents sit in a conference room listening to a mafioso incriminate himself, or speaking in a treble accent that exists in Boston but that I’ve never heard in a movie because the degree of difficulty is high, it’s like he’s inventing some new kind of machismo.

The dialogue occasionally enters a realm of fanciful criminalspeak straight out of Damon Runyon. (I’m paraphrasing, but at one point Bulger says to a local cop giving him grief: “It’s a sad day when a good man takes up with his oppressor.”) And yet, in scene after scene, some fine actors go to town and dive into the material gratefully.” “Mr. But especially in regard to some key interior dramatic sequences, Cooper would seem to have given the Godfather films some very close re-viewings, as his typical approach is much like Coppola’s, starting with carefully composed and sometimes lengthily held master shots that are followed by unusually tight and sustained close-ups, which make the actors look really good.”

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