Black Mass Poster

Warner Bros.

There's been much talk about Black Mass, mostly surrounding Johnny Depp, his incredible transformation into Boston drug lord James "Whitey" Bulger and how this film could potentially get him a nod at the Oscars for Best Actor.

But does the film itself—which centers on Bulger's reign over the Boston drug world and his decades-long alliance with the FBI—live up to the hype that surrounds Depp?

Here's what five critics said about the film, which hits theaters on Friday:

1. The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy says, "Depp shines in a solid gangster biopic. "

"Johnny Depp finally gets back down to some serious business in Black Mass," he writes. "Long-time Depp fans who might have lately given up hope of his doing something interesting anytime soon will especially appreciate his dive into the deep end here to personify genuine perfidy in the guise of legendary hoodlum James 'White' Bulger."

He adds, "Depp's instinct for observing, underlying and keeping things in, then letting it all out when required, pays big dividends... It's unexpected, very welcome at this point in his career and one of his best."

Johnny Depp, Black Mass

Warner Bros. Pictures

2. Forbes' Scott Mendelson thinks it was a "massive disappointment."

"Black Mass is an episodic and ultimately unsatisfying cinematic retelling of a relatively uncinematic story," he writes. "The story of James "Whitey" Bulger and his decades-long alliance with the FBI is certainly an interesting piece of history, but that doesn't mean it necessarily requires a feature film version."

"It is not even that Black Mass is a bad movie so much as it is so relentlessly irrelevant," he continues. "It offers no wisdom, no context, and no insight into its subjects while failing to provide much in the way of entertainment value. And it feels like such a shallow presentation of its subject that it doesn't even provide a comprehensive detailing of its events, thus making it useless as an instrument for educational cheating. Black Mass is a massive disappointment."

3. Entertaintment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty says it "never rises to greatness" because it's been done before.

"There's a scene in the film (one of its best, actually) where Whitey has dinner with [Kevin] Connolly and one of his fellow feds, and gets the agent to reveal his family's secret steak sauce recipe with such ease that it's clear he can't be trusted," he writes. "Depp plays the scene to the hilt, purring with menace, grinning that dead-toothed grin until you almost can't take it anymore."

However, he notes that it's all too familiar to him: "He plays the audience like Toscanini. But when it's over, you can't help thinking that, as great as it is, it's basically Joe Pesci's 'Funny how?' scene from Goodfellas," he writes. "That's Black Mass in a nut shell. It's a very good film about a very bad man. But as well-crafted and well-acted as it is, it never rises to greatness because we've been watching this story in one way or another going back to the time of Jimmy Cagney and Edward G. Robinson."

Johnny Depp, Black Mass


4. The Guardian's Pete Bradshaw calls it a "might comeback for Johnny Depp."

"Scott Cooper's Black Mass is a big, brash, horribly watchable gangster picture taken from an extraordinary true story and conceived on familiar generic lines," he writes. "Cooper and his screenwriters Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth have something substantial to add to the genre: making the point that gangsters do not arise from nowhere like comic-strip supervillains. They are the symptoms of political corruption, parasites created by agencies of the state, and by weak, credulous law enforcement officials who are content to sub-contract policing to the bad guys."

"[The script] includes some satisfyingly nasty twinges and shocks," he adds. "[And] Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton both give richly absorbing performances of preening macho self-regard and self-delusion."

5. The Huffington Post's Rob Taub says it's definitely "worth seeing."

"Johnny Depp leads an impressive ensemble cast in this well-made story about not only Whitey Bulger," he writes. "Depp's Whitey Bulger is not his typical flamboyant performance, but instead a thoughtful character study of a frightening stone killer completely devoid of conscience."

He adds, "After a string of flops, Depp gives a brilliant performance in a movie well worth seeing."

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