Julianne Nicholson calls ‘Black Mass’ showdown with Johnny Depp ‘thrilling …

18 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Black Mass review: Johnny Depp and the make-up problem.

The Boston crime film constitutes a small but colourful subgenre within the larger universe of the gangster film, arguably Hollywood’s greatest contribution to cinema. Until he was handed a life sentence after being convicted of 19 counts of murder, gangster Whitey Bulger topped the FBI’s Most Wanted list – and was considered the most dangerous man in America.Around a half-hour into Black Mass, the new Johnny Depp vehicle that tells the story of famed Boston crime kingpin James “Whitey” Bulger, you might have a familiar sinking feeling.Victims of the murderous Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger have expressed disgust and horror at comments made by Johnny Depp at a premiere of the biopic Black Mass, in which the actor talked about its subject’s potential for kindness and humanity.Covering the events between 1975 and 1992, Black Mass is essentially about FBI’s arrangement with Bulger that was only used by the latter to further his criminal run.

Now a new book has revealed the full extent of the horrors he meted out to hapless victims – and how he was protected for years by ‘petty bureaucrats’ more interested in ‘protecting their own asses’. When the movie opens, Bulger is a small-time crime boss, beloved in his neighborhood, but getting squeezed out by the Italian Mafia that’s taken over the North End. Speaking on the red carpet at Boston’s Coolidge Corner theatre, where Scott Cooper’s Oscar-tipped crime drama had its US premiere on 15 September, Depp said Bulger inhabited a world of violence, but also had a softer side to him. “There’s a kind heart in there,” he said. “There’s a cold heart in there. His childhood friend, an FBI agent named John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), gets the idea to align himself with the man he grew up with: Bulger will become an FBI informant, feeding the Bureau information so they can take down the Mafia, and in return, the FBI will look the other way when it comes to Bulger’s own activities. It’s a dicey proposition for both the FBI and Bulger, but Connolly talks both sides into it, and soon Bulger finds himself knocking out his competitors and spreading his criminal operation across the country.

As James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, the most ferocious gangster in South Boston once, he is cruel and merciless, without the now-overbearing tics or mannerisms. But for all that has been written and scripted about the criminal, the details of his sickening crimes and 16 years on the run have never been fully revealed.

It’s a terribly unromanticized, violent look at the real mob that makes ‘Goodfellas’ look almost lighthearted.” Here is Laura’s “Black Mass” review. “Everest” opens at some theaters in IMAX and 3-D, then goes into wider release next Friday. But with Bulger’s growing power comes increased audacity and recklessness, and it soon becomes clear to Connolly’s higher-ups that Bulger may be more dangerous than the people he helped bring down in the first place. There’s a lot to the man.” Bill St Croix, whose sister Deborah Hussey was strangled by Bulger in 1985, told the Boston Globe: “I wonder how Johnny Depp would feel if his sister got strangled and buried in the basement with two other corpses?

Black Mass itself is neither, never really shedding its tone of slightly breathless awe even when all available evidence shows Bulger as nothing but a violent thug. This rise was abetted by the fact that, unbeknownst to most of his gang members, he had turned informant for the FBI in 1975—encouraged by Connolly, whom he knew since the latter was a boy growing up in the same neighbourhood. For the most part it’s a gripping re-telling of the tragic climb in 1996 that took several lives and was made famous in Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air.” The film stars Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin and Jake Gyllenhaal. Director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace), steers the story with confidence, filling it with beautiful compositions and methodical camera moves. On a personal level, he is kind to elderly women, a devoted son to his old mother, a loving father to his young son, and a warm brother to his Senator sibling.

He takes a fair share of stylistic cues from Martin Scorsese, including multiple storytelling points of view that make the film feel like a second cousin to Goodfellas or Casino. Lily Tomlin is a real kick in the head as the titular “Grandma.” A depressed poet and part-time academic, here world is shaken when her granddaughter shows up pregnant and in need of money. The gangster fled Boston for a new life in Santa Monica, California, in 1995 after being tipped off by a corrupt FBI agent that he was about to be arrested, and was not caught until 2011. “No disrespect to any victims or families of victims, but there was some element for me that was kind of glad that he got away,” Depp was quoted as saying. “For 16 years he was on the lam and he wasn’t causing any trouble.

Indeed, when Bulger, now 86, finally did go to trial in late July 2013, his rap sheet included 32 counts of racketeering and 19 murders – brutal killings that included the savage strangulation of Debra Davis who disappeared in the early 1980s. His John Connolly is a man who can’t come to grips with who he is or even wants to be, putting on airs of false confidence and bravado to convince his wife, bosses, and colleagues of his sincerity and innocence — constantly spinning plates until the Bulger investigation brings everything crashing down.

After a robbery in 1955, he fled Boston after his partner told police of his involvement but returned in early 1956 – despite the arrest warrant on his head. Bulger is onscreen in nearly every scene, and the actor reveals a savagery and intensity we haven’t seen from him before — at least not like this. How can you have compassion for that person, knowing what he’s done?” But another of Deborah Hussey’s brothers, Stephen Hussey, said after attending the premiere that the movie had not glorified Bulger. “I think it portrayed him as an evil psychopath,” he told the newspaper.

He was caught and began a prison term in Atlanta, Georgia before being shipped off to Alcatraz on the big rock in the San Francisco Bay and then to the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. No. 2 – “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” – picks up with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and the gang as they learn that there were other Mazes, and that they must now try to cross a desert called the Scorch, filled with all kinds of nasty things. Boston lawyer, JW Carney Jr, who represented Bulger at the mobster’s 2013 trial, praised Depp for offering “a riveting portrayal” of his subject. “The limitations of time allowed only glimpses of Jim Bulger’s other qualities, especially his intelligence, wit and ability to truly love someone,” Carney told the Globe. “When Johnny stared at the audience with his ice-blue eyes during certain scenes, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. There are also several brief appearances by key players in the Bulger story, including a haunting one by Peter Sarsgaard as Brian Halloran, an ill-fated business partner of Whitey’s.

Movies taking aim at the Oscars are often the best chance actors have to sink their teeth into weighty material, so even if nothing is quite working, they’ll keep pushing. It’s a glorious contrast to the cackling madmen caricatures that have become his stock in trade, and it shows there’s an entirely different type of character he can tackle if he wants to. Years later, Bulger claimed he subsequently suffered headaches and persistent insomnia and told his associates he would use this LSD experiment as a defense in court if he were ever arrested.

Despite recent evidence to the contrary — think junk like Transcendence and Mortdecai — Depp isn’t an “I just sent you a fax” sort of actor. Friendship is a sham and everyone’s out to make life easier for themselves, whether it’s Bulger’s lieutenants giving the federal agents evidence against him, or Whitey brutally disposing of Flemmi’s moll because he suspects that the police knows she’s involved with them. Here’s what the Los Angeles Times had to say. “Cooties,” the zombie-riddled, action-horror-comedy starring Elijah Wood and Rainn Wilson, lands today at Tower City Cinemas. Seeing Depp in a strange wig, buried under a few thousand dollars of make-up, has become a trial in recent years, but once you get used to his receding hairline and piercing grey eyes, it becomes easier to appreciate his performance. This character has plenty of those — including a makeup job that makes him look a bit like Lord Voldemort — but Depp breaks through that surface to find a kind of dark, rich soul. (Watch the way his eyes seem to deaden a little more with every scene.) His performance actually makes the movie seem better than it is much of the time.

Barrett, a likeable guy according to sources, was doing well from his legitimate business but his greed for stolen jewelry that he could resell for a profit proved his undoing. Depp and Cooper clearly put plenty of work into fully realizing Bulger on screen, but they leave it to the audience to find the broader meaning in his story. Edgerton, all fake charm and bluster, is a good foil—the Australian actor is a far more convincing Bostoner than Cumberbatch, whose accent keeps slipping.

He was lured to the same Third Street house on the premise that there was stolen jewelry to be assessed but when he got there, all he saw was Bulger pointing a gun at him and telling him to freeze. Harbour, Cochrane and Nicholson are terrific, but I would urge you to look out for the charged scenes involving Dakota Johnson (as Lindsey Cyr, Whitey’s girlfriend) and Juno Temple (as Deborah Hussey, Flemmi’s moll).

The conversation switched to how much cash Barrett kept in his house which prompted Bulger and Flemmi to immediately pay a visit and help themselves to over $40,000. Of particular note is Julianne Nicholson, as the wife of Edgerton’s character, a woman who tries to avoid becoming complicit in the evil her husband invites into her home.

His willingness to transform himself is fearless and brilliant when in service of character, but it’s hard to find any rhyme or reason to his career choices beyond the bizarre inclinations of an eccentric superstar (see: Mortdecai), a public-facing role Depp seems all too happy to play. This is the kind of performance that used to win supporting actress prizes back when you could win one for just a few minutes of screentime. either needed to be a lot shorter — a lean and mean story about how Bulger used the FBI to expand his criminal empire — or a lot longer: an HBO miniseries that took on the entire life and death of said empire.

The terrifying steeliness in Bulger’s voice and the way he looms over a soon-to-be victim aren’t the result of something he wears; they’re the work of an actor painstakingly modifying his gait, inflections, vocal cadence, and stance. You suspect that’s what lies at the heart of the Whitey Bulger legend than his other meal-time homilies: about Vitamin C in freshly pressed juice, and bacteria in shared bowls of peanuts. They’re the truest expression of a performer turning themselves into somebody else from the inside out, and proof that even after all this time, audiences haven’t even begun to see everything that Johnny Depp is capable of.

Reportedly, lots and lots was cut from the film (including an entire subplot involving actress Sienna Miller), and it’s easy to feel all of that missing material in the way the story lurches haphazardly among various aborted plotlines. Neither does the conception of Bulger’s two closest henchmen: Stephen Flemmi (Rory Cochrane), who here is rotund and baleful, and Kevin Weeks (Jesse Plemons), who’s got prosthetic-looking skin, big hair, and a dog’s loyalty.

The strongest stuff involves Bulger’s relationship with the FBI, but that will be put on hold to occasionally examine his relationship with his brother, or the FBI’s eventual pursuit of him, or even a criminal-run jai alai empire. (Yes, there is a subplot about a jai alai empire.) Obviously Failed Oscarbait often tries to incorporate every single part of the epic story it’s trying to tell — usually because it wants to leave in every bit of research on a true story or every subplot from an acclaimed novel. We cleaned up all the blood and everything and then [Steve] went over and proceeded to take out Bucky’s teeth.’ Flemmi was fixated on removing the teeth of his victims one by one in the mistaken belief that they couldn’t be identified without them. When Whitey’s follow-up shipment of marijuana was busted, he learned from his man in the FBI, John Connolly, that John McIntyre was suspected and he was soon brought to Third Street. Wolf of Wall Street, for instance, presented its characters’ shenanigans as a raucous party, but it was impossible to escape the way director Martin Scorsese seemed troubled by how easy it is to swindle the American public.

A happy (and not entirely accidental) consequence of these consultations, for Bulger, was that the demise of the Italian mob cleared a path for his Winter Hill Gang to dominate not only the vending-machine racket but to run drugs and arms, too. There’s no such point of view in Black Mass, which wants to indulge in Bulger’s crimes (when he’s gunning down those who’ve crossed him indiscriminately) but also wants us to be appalled by his actions. Connolly and another agent, John Morris (David Harbour), reap the most intimate spoils, in money and trips and time with Whitey, but you get the sense that the men are just two prominent for-examples of corruption within the agency. A particular favorite shot of mine involves Bulger seeming to blend into his mother’s wallpaper after she passes, an acute visual representation of the grief he feels but cannot articulate. Once in the body bags, the bodies were moved to a dense gully in Dorchester, Massachusetts, near Florian Hall where civil servants often met for social functions.

Ironically, Bulger’s brother happened to be the influential Massachusetts Senator Billy Bulger – the most powerful politician in the state of Massachusetts who also served as president of the state senate for 16 years. Sarsgaard is among the last actors you’d cast in a part that requires him to say “I make my living in the streets.” But he’s so wrong that he’s almost right. English writes: ‘Flemmi, an Italian-American, had connections among nearly every criminal faction in the city, including, as it turn out, the FBI’. It was Flemmi’s attorneys who dropped the bombshell in 1997 that Flemmi and Whitey had been covert informants for the Feds dating back to the mid-70s.

But Dakota Johnson, Juno Temple, and, especially, Julianne Nicholson — as a baby mama, floozie-junkie, and a long-suffering FBI wife, respectively — apply themselves to thankless canned roles of actual people. (Nicholson’s accent works, but like spoken palimpsest; as U.S. attorney Fred Wyshak, Corey Stoll’s suggests a 51st state only he knows about.) Edgerton’s physicality takes the movie. Flemmi didn’t think he could be prosecuted for his crimes because of the immunity given both men as informants in the Justice Department’s war against the Mafia. 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.

But Flemmi’s claim was dismissed by the presiding judges in a Boston federal courtroom in late 1997 and ’98 in what became known as the Wolf Hearings, where he pleaded guilty to committing 11 murders. It feels like a collection of facts, assembled in chronological order (with a few inexplicably held back for big “reveals”) and held together by a rough idea of what a movie like this is supposed to look like. When the year begins, Oscar experts look at upcoming movies and usually assemble a list of hopefuls, based entirely on source material or subject matter. Death is just about everywhere in this version of Boston, which makes it close to almost every version of Boston filmed in the past dozen years. (The Heat’s an exception; it’s also a law-enforcement comedy.) The cinematography, by Masanobu Takayanagi, keeps its head, lurking slowly to and fro.

Despite his best efforts and the expensive defense lawyers contracted to fight his corner, Bulger was finally convicted and sentenced to two life sentences in prison plus five years. All the slow motion, tracking moves, and framing and wide and long shots are hauntingly descriptive: In that strangulation sequence, a shot in an apartment hallway with Bulger and his victim in the foreground slowly accommodates, in the background, one out-of-focus henchman, then another. The violence still shocks, and time hasn’t diminished the dread, say, of watching Karen Hill experience deep second thoughts about walking into an alley for a free coat — no director has been more attuned to the importance of unnatural cinematic beats for even the possibility of murder. Aside from that performance and Roger Deakins’s cinematography, which is full of desert sizzle and searchlight-generated shadow, I’m not buying this movie; and I’ve seen it twice. Mostly because Villeneuve and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan aren’t selling more than a tautological action movie with the dread and body count of a horror film.

He’s directed Everest, which also opens today. (People, the gym is crowded this week!) He’s from Iceland, and his Hollywood action thrillers include the enjoyably nasty Contraband and the proudly cynical 2 Guns. Written by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, the movie’s based on the 1996 disaster at Mount Everest and was shot in 3-D, and is worth seeing in that format. Mick Audsley’s editing proves as crucial to your absorption as what the daring cinematographer Salvatore Totino and the stunt and effects teams come up with.

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