You gotta hand it to Johnny Depp. Like Tom Cruise, he hasn't depended on his matinee idol looks to get his flicks over. Nor has he relied on genre to rake in the bucks (although the Pirates series has guaranteed his riches for ten lifetimes). Yet he does have an affinity for the crime category, as we've seen in his unforgettable Donnie Brasco and the not-so-unforgettable Public Enemies. He teamed up with Al Pacino to make Brasco one of the Ten Greatest All-Time Crime Flicks (IMHO), and overshadowed none other than Christian Bale in acing his role as John Dillinger in Enemies. Well, you ain't seen nothin' yet if you haven't seen Black Mass.
Scott Cooper (who?) does a masterful job in sailing this ship to shore, considering the fact that it depends far more on Depp's performance than anything else. Yet therein may lie the magic, letting the understatement build evil visions in the audience's mind. There's none of the Scarface blood splatter, no Goodfellas glitz and glamor, none of the high-styling and profiling of The Departed. Whitey Bulger (Depp)'s crew is a lunch pail pick and shovel gang of Boston Irishmen trying to earn an illegal dollar the hard way before getting propositioned by one of Bulger's neighborhood acquaintances. It just so happens that Joel Edgerton (the Pharoah in Exodus: Gods and Kings) is an FBI agent trying to take down the Italian Mob by any means necessary. He makes a deal with Bulger, who feeds the Feds enough intel to trample the Mafia so that the Bulger Gang can step into the power vacuum. It turns Bulger into the USA's most powerful Irish Godfather, ruling Boston with an iron hand until agent John Connolly (Edgerton) is indicted by the Massachusetts DA. Bulger, as is well-known, goes on the run and becomes America's second Most Wanted Man (behind Osama Bin Laden) until his capture at the turn of the century.
It's Depp's performance that truly makes this what the critics call 'mesmerizing'. His dead fish look is absolutely eerie, and his nickname is a most apropos nomenclature (you call him Whitey, he'll split your skull). Bulger's blue-eyed zombie gaze is enough to steal every scene, and every time he stares at someone you're expecting the worst to happen. So does everyone else, and the tension is bloodcurdling. It's hard to remember a baddie captivating the audience in such a manner --- unless you want to include Hannibal Lecter or The Joker.
Such over-the-top performances have a way of getting arbitrarily passed over by the Academy, so Depp may not get the Oscar nod he deserves for this. But you can be damn sure it's a crime flick you'll never forget. And you sure as hell won't forget the name Whitey Bulger.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Thursday, September 17, 2015
The white Porsche cruised slowly down Goodfellow Boulevard near downtown St. Louis, boldly venturing where most strangers dared not go. The streetlights grew dimmer and the buildings more desolate, yet the vehicle continued along its path. There were few pedestrians on the street at that time of night, and most seemed up to no good. Eventually a couple of men stepped off the curb and waved at the luxury car. It slowed to a halt as the men approached on either side.
“What you ladies looking for?” a tall black man asked as he hovered over the driver’s side.
“We were trying to score some weed,” the driver replied crisply.
“How much?” the man on the passenger side asked.
“About a half ounce, depending on the price.”
“Yeah, I can do that.”
“Good,” the man replied before sticking a .38 barrel against her temple. “Turn off the car and get out nice and easy.”
She did as she was told, and both women exited the vehicle as their accosters pulled the doors open. The driver was prodded towards an abandoned two-story residence, her companion shoved along behind them by the second man wielding a knife. The women wore cocktail dresses and high heels, their footing unsure as they made their way across broken glass and scattered debris.
“Where are you taking us?” the driver asked.
“That’s for you to find out,” the gunman said as his companion dropped back to get the Porsche out of the middle of the street. “You just do what I tell you and you’ll come out of this alive.”
“Please don’t hurt us,” the second woman pleaded.
“Just shut the hell up and do what you told.”
“All right, brother, nice catch,” a beefy gangster appeared on the porch accompanied by four other men. “We gonna do some partying.”
The media was abuzz with news of the previous night’s incident along the boulevard. Two college girls had driven into the neighborhood looking to score drugs and had been abducted by thugs. They were dragged into a building where they were raped, tortured and nearly beaten to death. The gangsters were well aware of the event and considered themselves fortunate that such beautiful women as these two could be this foolhardy.
“All right, ladies, turn around and put your hands behind your backs,” the gunman shoved them into the house, sticking his pistol into his waistband.
“What are you going to do?” the second woman cried as the driver’s wrists were bound behind her back with a plastic tie.
“Shut the hell up, bitch!’ he snarled, grabbing the back of her dress and ripping it in half. She screamed as he grabbed her wrists and tied them, leaving her standing in her underwear.
“C’mon, man, give us a break,” the driver pleaded. “You don’t need this kind of heat, not after last night. People are gonna look for us.”
“Don’t you worry about it,” the gunman smirked as he headed for the door, his comrades ransacking the Porsche they parked out front. “We gonna be done here before you know it.”
Once he stepped outside, the driver reached under her dress and produced a switchblade from her panty line. She flicked it open and held it tight as her companion spun around, cutting herself free of her bond. She took the knife and swiftly cut her partner loose.
“Geez, Kirstie, here they come.”
The gunman returned with the husky man, both gangsters barreling through the door towards the women. Only as they reached for them, the women’s hands flew from behind their backs. Kirsten Streicher dropped back and launched a roundhouse kick with her stiletto heel that ripped across the gunman’s carotid artery and punctured his windpipe. Jenna Harm, in her underwear, drove the switchblade into the husky man’s right shoulder.
“You’re right,” Kirsten told the sagging men. “We’re gonna be done here before you know it.”
At once they could hear gunfire being exchanged outside as their teammates made their presence known. They also heard patrol car sirens on opposite ends of the street as the sound of helicopter blades descended over the roof. The women raced towards the parlor and stared up through a gaping hole in the ceiling.
“St. Louis PD!” Kirsten showed her badge as she shot the bird at the spotlight glaring down at them. “Get that damn light off me!”