Has Depp Finally Returned to Form?
One critic says role as Whitey Bulger is 'one of his best'; another heartily disagrees
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2015 1:35 PM CDT

(Newser) – Yes, that's Johnny Depp in those eerie blue contacts and balding blonde wig. The actor transforms into gangster James "Whitey" Bulger in Black Mass, which follows the crimelord's remarkable rise in South Boston, with a strong supporting cast along for the ride. Here's what critics are saying:

  • The movie's actors deliver "very strong, sometimes riveting work," writes Todd McCarthy at the Hollywood Reporter. Joel Edgerton is "outstanding" as FBI agent John Connolly, but it's Depp "who takes control of the proceedings from the outset and never yields it, except for when he disappears for a while in the second half," writes McCarthy. He's "fully convincing and frightening." Overall, it's "one of his best" performances.
  • You certainly can't fault the acting, writes Moira Macdonald at the Seattle Times. Benedict Cumberbatch and Dakota Johnson each deliver alongside Depp. But the film "never quite seems to build to a peak," she says. "It's one of those movies that you don't exactly enjoy (so many guns, so many deaths), but you appreciate for its craft and tension, and for its cast's willingness to lose themselves in the darkness."

  • Scott Foundas agrees with McCarthy. Depp is "mesmerizing" as he's restored "to the daring, inspired performer of his early Tim Burton collaborations." But there's a lot more to attract audiences, he writes at Variety. Director Scott Cooper also offers a wonderful portrait of Connolly, which results in a "sober, sprawling, deeply engrossing" picture. Foundas says it's "one of the fall's first serious, awards-caliber attractions."
  • Rene Rodriguez couldn't disagree more. This is supposed to be Depp's comeback film, but "once again, he's playing a thinly written character who is all surface," he writes at the Miami Herald. Since "Depp never lets us inside Bulger's head," he appears only as "a two-dimensional boogeyman ... comprised of pieces from more memorable movie gangsters," Rodriguez says. "The only thing the film manages to do is remind us we've seen all this stuff done before—and done better."