Movie Review: “Black Mass”

Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemmons, David Harbour, Kevin Bacon
Scott Cooper

There was a time when Johnny Depp could seemingly do no wrong, but in recent years, he’s mistaken that goodwill for the freedom to do whatever the hell he wants, and it hasn’t really worked out in his favor. Not counting cameos and animated voice work, it’s been a while since Depp delivered a genuinely good performance. (You’d have to go all the way back to 2009’s “Public Enemies,” in which he played another famous gangster, John Dillinger.) But the actor finally stops the rot with his turn as the menacing Whitey Bulger in “Black Mass,” and though it isn’t exactly Oscar worthy, it’s just nice to see him back doing what he does best: creating complex, memorable characters instead of broadly painted caricatures.

The movie opens in 1975 as small-time criminal Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger (Depp) begins to make a name for himself in South Boston with the help of his Winter Hill Gang, including trusted right-hand man Steve Flemmi (Rory Cochrane), hitman John Martorano (W. Earl Brown) and muscle Kevin Weeks (Jesse Plemmons). When one of Whitey’s old childhood friends, FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), returns to Boston to clean up the streets by bringing down the Italian mafia, he suggests that Whitey become his informant – a mutually beneficial business arrangement that would allow John to get rid of the mob and give Whitey free reign over the city. But as John struggles to cover up Whitey’s growing criminal empire, he unknowingly places himself in the FBI’s crosshairs when his superiors begin to question how Whitey continues to get away with murder, sometimes quite literally.

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Movie Review: “The Gift”

Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, Busy Philipps
Joel Edgerton

There is a reason that stalker thrillers fell out of vogue: in terms of story structure, even the good ones have a lot in common with the bad ones. It’s a rigid narrative, which means it’s virtually impossible to surprise the audience. Joel Edgerton’s “The Gift” (in which he also stars) falls victim to the same trappings as stalker thrillers past, but only for the first half of the movie. From there, the movie breaks from tradition, offering several pleasant surprises in the process. There are no ‘boo’ moments in the score, and Edgerton’s script is transparent in ways that these films are rarely allowed to be. It’s almost unfair in how the movie is able to have its cake and eat it, too. And the ending will have people buzzing, and most likely wanting to take a shower.

Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) have recently moved to California for Simon’s new job. As the two are shopping for furnishings, Simon runs into Gordon (Edgerton), a high school classmate that Simon hasn’t seen since they were teenagers. “Gordo” goes out of his way to be helpful to Simon and Robyn, and leaves multiple gifts for the two at their front door. Robyn is touched by Gordo’s generosity, and can relate to his social awkwardness, but Simon isn’t comfortable with the affection that Gordo lavishes on Robyn, and asks Gordo to leave them alone. Gordo does, but in doing so, he leaves a clue for Robyn that suggests that Simon is not being forthright about his and Gordo’s shared past.

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A “Warrior” for a good cause

The upcoming action drama “Warrior” is the first truly major movie we can think of to cover the world of MMA. A poster from Comic-Con signed by stars Tom Hardy — who made such a huge splash as Eames in “Inception” and who is slated to be next Mad Max — and Joel Edgerton (outstanding in last year’s “Animal Kingdom“) from Comi-Con is currently up for auction at eBay. It’s all for an outstanding cause, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, so you’ll be getting a small piece of history while helping children. However, the auction closes this afternoon (Thursday, 8/4), just a couple of hours, so there’s not much time.