When you look at the poster you might think Johnny Depp went back to his Hunter S. Thompson (or Raoul Duke) look from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas but in fact he’s portraying a legendary Boston gangster called James “Whitey” Burger. The character Frank Costello that Jack Nicholson played in The Departed was modelled after Bulger.
With the prosthetics and blue eyes it may take a few seconds before you realise it’s Depp. There’s a faint resemblance between Depp’s Bulger and Ed Harris (perhaps due to State of Grace?)
The film zeroes in on Bulger’s ‘business arrangement’ with FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), a childhood acquaintance. He helps out with interesting tips on the Italian maffia and in exchange Bulger and his Irish gang can go ahead unhindered with their ‘activities’. Both ‘careers’ benefit heavily from this deal, until … .
The list of supporting actors is impressive: Benedict Cumberbatch Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard (this week also starring in Pawn Sacrifice), Adam Scott, Corey Stoll (Peter Russo in House of Cards) and Juno Temple in a brief but very notable performance.
But basically it’s the Johnny Depp show, be it a somewhat more restraint one, to showcase Depp can play a scary character and to openly apply for an Acadamy Award nomination. The ‘secret family recipe’ scene is definitely inspired by the famous “I’m Funny how?” scene from Goodfellas that got Joe Pesci his Oscar.
Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace) is an adequate director but does not have the visual brilliance or the extreme attention to detail of a Scorsese or the finesse of a Sidney Lumet to really raise this gangster, police corruption docu drama to the high standard of a Goodfellas or a Prince of the City.