*NEW* BLACK MASS REVIEW *NEW*

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A massive mistake for Depp? Another black mark to put against his flailing filmography? There’s only one way to find out.

The true story of Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp), the brother of a state senator (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.

A mixed bag, to say the least. A stellar cast do their best to reprieve a meandering mob flick.

Johnny Depp was superb. It’s okay looking the part. BUT you need to bring a performance to back it. One that he brings by the bucket load. As soon as he made his introduction with those icy cold blue eyes, I was sold. BUT for all the promise, I expected so much more. For those who are familiar with Whitey’s story, you may find that this latest re-telling brings nothing new to the mix.

The opening really didn’t things going as we were introduced to all of Whitey’s highly unmemorable henchmen as they provided testimony against one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. Other than wearing a really bad wig, I questioned the relevance of Jesse Plemons (Friday Night Lights). I had to laugh at the fact his testimony, in terms of narration, detailed events where his character was never present.

Depp certainly carried the piece. BUT considering he was supposed to be the main character, he wasn’t in it as much as you think. I have to say that Black Mass was a very patchy affair. We had a slow but interesting build up as we watched the small time crook expand in his neighbourhood. BUT after a dull and chunky bit of exposition with the FBI, the film suddenly flash forward. Skimming over crucial moments of Whitey’s ever-growing empire.

I was disappointed that we didn’t even get to see the low level gangster make that transition. He was a small blip on the FBI’s radar in one frame than a massive target in the next one. The passing comments from the FBI agents about his drug business and confrontations with the Mafia sounded great. BUT why couldn’t we see that? Juxtaposing sinister shots of Depp with pictures of bodies wasn’t enough.

I wasn’t completely bored. He bumped off a few people here. Delivered a creepy speech there. There was one brilliant scene in which Whitey educated his fellow handlers on the value of keeping secrets. Spine tingling. BUT where was that tension throughout the rest of the film?

I didn’t mind that they tried to bring a little humanity to Whitey’s character. His care for family and respect among the community may have been intense (A little bonkers, even) BUT you could almost feel a little empathy for the nutcase.

BUT what infuriated me was how this huge ensemble wasn’t used to their full potential. Adam Scott (Krampus) might as well have been an uncredited extra. Kevin Bacon’s character only really got going in the closing minutes. Peter Sarsgaard didn’t do a bad job as the volatile Brian Halloran BUT was shipped out too quickly.

Joel Edgerton (The Gift) was brilliant as FBI agent (and neighbourhood chum) John Connolly. It was interesting to see his transformation from a timid pencil pusher to a cocksure untouchable with shades and swagger in tow. His ruthless egotism was something else.

The lovely (if slightly stick thin) Dakota Johnson (50 Shades of Grey) was wasted in her role as Whitey’s wife. Anyone could have played her. She only really delivered in one scene (The one she featured in). Julianne Nicholson (August: Osage County) managed to make a slightly more memorable turn BUT was still underused as Connolly’s spouse.

I couldn’t compare Black Mass to any of the other gangster flicks because it tragically fell short of them. I really wanted to like this. There were some crazy statistics and moments that did surprise me about the gangster. The deals with the FBI were outrageous. BUT that was it. A movie of moments.

A great cast do their best BUT the wafer thin story was something I expected to see in a True Crime biopic NOT a theatrical release.

2.5/5 (Just)

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*NEW* THE GIFT REVIEW *NEW*

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Joel Edgerton’s debut is a gift that needs returning.

Slow, dreary and dreadfully predictable. Disappointed doesn’t even come close.

A young married couple’s lives are thrown into a harrowing tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband’s past brings mysterious gifts and a horrifying secret to light after more than 20 years.

That synopsis makes it sound so much more interesting that it really was.

Now I’ve been a fan of Edgerton for some time ever since his turn in Kinky Boots and Warrior. I really had high hopes for his directorial debut. A great cast do their best BUT you can’t hide a lifeless thriller with a surprisingly flat twist.

The opening got the ball rolling quite early. It set up the premise within five minutes. Couple. House. Creepy friend. Excellent. Let the game of cat and mouse begin.

The first half hour I was happy to allow the characters to develop. Always remembering that the inevitable was creeping around the corner. BUT by the hour marker, I was praying for it to come quicker (Steady now).

It was great to see Jason Bateman tackle a serious film for a change. I just wish he had a meatier role. He really excelled in the darker moments (which tragically there wasn’t enough of) and had good chemistry with Rebecca Hall.

Rebecca Hall is a very good actress but has this knack of featuring in mediocre films. Transcendence, anyone? She had an impeccable accent and carried the film for me. Lucky. Considering the film was very much focused on her character. The pawn in a very boring game of chess.

Edgerton was perfect as the troubled Gordo. The film picked up every time he appeared. To be honest, his numerous drop-ins at the family home felt like a minor inconvenience more than a stalkerish obsession.

I was impressed with Edgerton’s supporting cast. It’s just a shame that he didn’t give them better characters. Alison Tolman (Fargo) was wasted as the neighbour. It was extremely annoying because there was a strange moment in which Edgerton suggested something more suspect about her.

When Robyn (Hall) first meets Tolman’s character, she notices the baby is left crying in the back of the car. Hidden behind a veil. There was a slight Rosemary’s Baby vibe. BUT in the next frame, we have Robyn cradling the baby. It could have been a play on Hall’s paranoia BUT more should have been made of it.

How did Busy Philips from Dawson’s Creek get in this? She might as well have NOT been. Wendell Pierce was pretty much playing Bunk from the Wire. The same tired face and exasperated expression. Great for a Wire fan. Poor for anyone else. And he was only it in for 30 seconds and was completely redundant.

Eduard Grau’s cinematography may have provided a murky look to this supposedly “murky” thriller. But you can’t a polish a tur- turgid drama.

I’m happy to allow a slow burning thriller to unfold. If the pay-off delivers. The inevitable creepy tension as Gordo’s numerous appearances go from annoying to unsettling was too predictable. I could feel myself ticking everything off a check list. It was too formulaic. They have a pond. He buys them fish. They throw him out. He kills the fish. Oh no, they have a dog. What’s going to happen there?

It was inevitable that Gordo was a ticking timebomb. If anything Bateman’s reaction was more questionable as he finally lets his new guest know that he has overstayed his welcome. This is where the film did get a little more interesting as Simon’s (Bateman) past is called into question.

The cheap jump out of your seat scares felt desperate as the film continued to stagger along. I thought the shower sequence was merely a ploy to make sure the audience were still awake. Quick jump. Aaah! Right. Still with us? Back to the film.

The closing fifteen minutes finally delivered what I had expected from the rest of the film. A tense slow burning stand-off with the inevitable twist rearing its ugly head. And credit where it’s due; the twist was actually an interesting one. And I did appreciate Edgerton’s little nod to the Usual Suspects.

It did leave you pondering as the credits rolled. A nice touch. But once I got out of the cinema and into my car, I realised I had still wasted two hours for a mediocre conclusion and the revelation hardly matched all the mystery and hype.

Patchy at best but very disappointing for all the promise. Mr Edgerton, spend less time on wrapping and more time on picking a better present, eh.

2.5/5