“Black Mass” could get Johnny Depp back in the Oscar game

Black Mass Johnny Depp headshot
At one point, it seemed rather inevitable that Johnny Depp would one day win an Academy Award. He was a golden boy of sorts, but then Depp fell off the wagon a bit. The allure of playing Captain Jack Sparrow repeatedly and fooling around with Tim Burton in his various flights of fancy more or less, with the exception of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, removed him from the Oscar map. It’s been that way for a while now, but this week, Depp is back in a big way with Black Mass, his first legitimate awards vehicle in years. With that, he’s once again a contender in the Best Actor field.

The film is a look at notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and the alliance he had with the FBI, specifically with John Connolly. Depp plays Bulger and Joel Edgerton plays Connolly and we watch how they go from childhood acquaintances to partners in crime, almost literally. You see Bulger rise to power with his Winter Hill Gang and abuse his status as a protected informant, all while Connolly attempts to keep the feds from going after him. Scott Cooper directs this mob movie, the script is by Jez Butterworth and Mark Mallouk, while the cast is vast. In addition to Depp and Edgerton, we have the likes of Kevin Bacon, W. Earl Brown, Bill Camp, Rory Cochrane, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Harbour, Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson, Jesse Plemons, Peter Sarsgaard, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, and Juno Temple. It’s a crowded ensemble, to say the least.

Black Mass Johnny Depp
Obviously, the star here is Depp and he gets to do something less cartoonish for the first time in a while. Sure, I like him occasionally in those sorts of roles (notably in Kevin Smith’s Tusk), but he’s more suited to this sort of a ting. While I’ll confess to not being blown away by him in the same fashion as a number of my colleagues, I can easily appreciate why this performance is contention worthy. The same goes for Edgerton, as both play complex characters with questionable morals. In some ways, you can see how Bulger and Connolly became the characters that Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon respectively played in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, though this is far less flashy than that. It likely won’t be close to the Oscar play that one was either, but we shall see…

Speaking of awards, what’s the potential Academy Award prospects for this one? Well, it’s hard to say, but Warner Brothers sure plans to try and find out. Expect campaigns in Best Picture, Best Director (for Cooper), Best Actor (for Depp), Best Supporting Actor (for Edgerton), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Butterworth and Mallouk), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Original Score. There are other potential names in Supporting Actor they could try, but like the hopefuls in Best Supporting Actress, they’re probably kidding themselves. It might be Actor or bust here (give or take a Makeup citation), with Depp potentially helping Edgerton come along for the ride in Supporting Actor.

On Friday, audiences will get to see Black Mass in theaters and can decide for themselves if this truly is a return to form for Depp. Personally, I wasn’t blown away by this one, but I can easily see voters finding it to be appealing. Paying customers will have to support this one, but that could certainly happen. We’ll see in the coming weeks how it all breaks, but Black Mass definitely is worth giving a shot to, as it’s one of the fall Oscar contenders we’ve waited so long to finally see…

Black Mass shooting Johnny Depp
Be sure to check out Black Mass, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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