Tag Archives: Kevin bacon

Black Mass (2015)

black mass

I was a little sceptical about Black Mass in the beginning because Johnny Depp has lost a lot of credibility in recent years due to his odd character choices. The first thing you notice about the poster is the makeover Depp undergoes for the role of Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, with the balding head, patchy grey hair and fake wrinkles — it looked good enough but also jarring, much like Leo DiCaprio in J. Edgar.

But then I saw the rest of the ridiculous cast — Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, Dakota Johnson, Peter Saarsgard and Jesse “Meth Damon” Plemons from Breaking Bad — and I knew my fears were likely misplaced.

Black Mass is much more than just a return to form for Depp — it’s a fantastic crime drama that gripped me from the very first scene and continued to tighten its hold as Bulger grew in both status and ruthlessness.

Based on the non-fiction book of the same name, Black Mass follows Bulger’s rise from small-time mobster to one of the most notorious organised crime bosses in America during the 70s and 80s. How he gets there is what this film is all about; it’s a dark and sordid journey full of underhanded deals, double-crossing, and above all, loyalty. There are a lot of blurred lines in this world, one of which involves Whitey’s brother Billy (Cumberbatch), a member of the Massachusetts senate, with the other revolving around John Conolly (Edgerton), an FBI agent who grew up worshipping the badass Whitey back when they were kids.

In some ways, Black Mass is quite a conventional crime drama in that it focuses on a turbulent world and the characters that inhabit it, with plenty of brutality and violence to keep audiences at the edge of their seats. There’s no shortage of death or cursing, and there’s no black and white, only shades of grey.

The film’s director, Scott Cooper, who last helmed Out of the Furnace with Christian Bale, brings his gritty sensibilities to Black Mass. As with that film, the tone is dark, the mood grim, and the atmosphere intense. Despite there not being any major ups and downs or particularly climatic encounters, especially action-wise, Cooper nonetheless found a way to maintain my attention, and even as the film ends after a solid 122 minutes, I felt as though I could have easily watched another hour of that world and those characters.

The performance of Johnny Depp as Bulger has been highly touted and rightly so. It’s almost strange seeing him not being some sort of fantastical weirdo, but he pulls off the brooding, vicious villain so well that you soon forget about all the make up and prosthetics. Though he doesn’t show much emotion, Depp’s Bulger is genuinely terrifying and unpredictable. Most of the film’s tension comes directly from him.

While Depp may very well receive an Oscar nomination for his performance, another guy who probably deserves it just as much is Joel Edgerton. His portrayal of FBI agent Connolly is brilliant, and in many ways he is the true lead of the movie because Bulger doesn’t have much character development to work with. First Edgerton gives us The Gift, and now he rewards us with this performance. The talented dude is just a legend who continues to make all Aussies proud.

On the whole, Black Mass is a riveting true story fueled by a star-studded cast and outstanding performances all round, especially from Depp and Edgerton. It has all the elements of a great crime drama, and while it’s not on the level of the classics like The Godfather, Goodfellas, Heat, and so forth, it’s still an engrossing and captivating experience in its own right.

4 stars out of 5

Movie Review: R.I.P.D. (2013) (2D)


When I first caught a glimpse of the trailer for RIPD I thought, man, this looks a lot like Men In Black for ghosts. A young guy joins a clandestine organization dedicated to eradicating threats common folks don’t know anything about — for their own good — and gets paired with an older partner who is somewhat wacky. Throw in some special effects, light humour and an anagram for a title. Sound familiar?

And so I watched RIPD and my thoughts were confirmed. Yes, it is strikingly similar in idea and tone to MIB, except it’s not as good — and I don’t even think MIB is particularly good.

Ryan Reynolds plays a young cop who does something a little dodgy with his partner, Kevin Bacon, but then his conscience strikes and he has a change of heart, which of course inevitably leads to his demise. Given his skills, he is given an option (which he naturally accepts) by Mary-Louise Parker to join the RIPD, which stands for the Rest In Peace Department (so clever). He is teamed up with an old gunslinger from the 1800s, played by Jeff Bridges, who is quick with his gun and has a fetish for hats and ankles. The two are sent back up to Earth where they take on “deados”, essentially demons disguised as humans. Somehow, they become embroiled in a case where the whole world is at stake and they have to save the day.

As it turned out, a derivative premise is the least of RIPD’s worries. The biggest problem with this film is that it is boring and unexciting, even when our heroes are driving around, chasing and shooting at comically grotesque monsters. The plot is painfully predictable. The progression is flat. The jokes are not funny or fresh (they try to milk this gag where our RIPD officers are in avatars of a hot blonde woman and an old Chinese man — for far too long). The special effects are some of the worst I have ever seen in a recent movie, with the deados looking less authentic than creations in most modern video games. They essentially look like cartoon characters — no joke. And the tone of the film was clearly designed to appeal to a very very young audience.

RIPD might be a passable 96 minutes of fun-ish entertainment for audiences with very low expectations, but the truth is that it is one of the worst comic book adaptations, possibly ever. I won’t lie. I missed a bit of the movie because I fell asleep. It really was that bad.

1.25 stars out of 5

PS: I pity anyone who paid extra to watch this in 3D.

Movie Review: X-Men: First Class (2011)

If X-Men Origins: Wolverine was economy, the X-Men Trilogy was business, then X-Men: First Class was definitely….first class.

That was lame, but X-Men: First Class really is one of the best superhero origin/reboot movies I’ve seen. And I’m not even that big a fan of the X-Men in general. Actually, simply put, it’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year.

First Class takes us way back to the very beginning, when Magneto was just Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) and Professor X was just Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). Even though we know who they will ultimately become, it was still a blast seeing them develop from children into adults, adults into best friends, and best friends into mortal enemies. And all of it takes place during (alternate) versions of real historic events, such as the Holocaust and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Although it’s a long movie at 132 minutes, First Class is an incredibly tight film that fits in not only the life stories of both Magneto and Professor X, but also features the back stories of a bunch of other key characters (such as Mystique and Beast), some of whom appeared in the X-Men Trilogy, others laying the foundations for future characters (though you probably need to watch carefully or do a bit of post-film research, like I did, to understand the connections — as well as the inconsistencies).

There are also many allusions to future events and several delicious cameos that fans of the previous films and of the franchise in general will lap up.

Everything about First Class, whether it’s the drama, the action, the make-up, the special effects, the pacing or the character development, is handled very well by director Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, Kickass), but what elevated the film beyond anything I could have expected were the performances of the stars, in particular Fassbender, McAvoy and Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw. These three superb actors brought their difficult characters to life and proved that good actors do make a huge difference, even in superhero movies.

Apparently, First Class is just the first of a new trilogy and the next two films are currently in development. No matter what they do, I just hope they can keep Fassbender and McAvoy and maintain this level of excellence. Considering how high they’ve set the bar, that’s not going to be easy.

4.25 stars out of 5