In the final moments of Scott Cooper's "Black Mass"- as the fates of its varied criminals and dirty cops comes to a crashing halt after a decade of unbridled swagger and financial excess- the film reaches the arched, epic tone its been striving for the entire time. It's not a case of too little too late... as the fine acting and Cooper's grasp of mise-en-scene, mood and an almost hushed reverence for the sink bottom atmosphere of South Boston, permeated a good majority of the film up until that point. It all just felt a bit familiar and diffuse, as if too many filmmakers had already walked this darkened path. Still, "Black Mass" is sturdy, professional filmmaking that dares to hold on the menacing face of Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger, making us stare into the gray eyes of its protagonist with unflinching brutality and dispassionate rigor.
Even through the consistent morbidity of Denis Villeneuve's "Sicario", he manages to hone in on the textures of everyday life with dreamy precision. The flakes of dust that linger in the air as rays of sunlight whip through a set of curtains. The jagged exteriors of drywall that hide a mass of murdered bodies in the film's nerve-racking opening scene. And especially the face and eyes of Emily Blunt as she registers confusion, regret and doubt amidst a sea of unchecked masculinity. Over his last few films, Villeneuve has yet to shy away from some pretty dark-hearted matters, but these moments of human fragility set against a backdrop of political, jurisdictional and criminal violence place "Sicario" as an exceptional study on the parameters of justice and its screwed up moral compass. Oh and it's a pretty damn good action film as well, but not in the standard ways. Villeneuve and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan ratchet up the tension scene by scene. Just watch and admire the almost wordless "prisoner extraction" scene from Juarez. Or the razor sharp sweeps of dialogue that tell us little, but amount to so much in the end. "Sicario" may be tale that's played out openly in the media and through CIA skulduggery fairytales for years, but its impact is no less resonant. One of the year's very best films.
Reviews available on Dallas Film Now:
Ashby- Mickey Rourke gives a pretty damn good performance in a rather uneven film.
Mississippi Grind- A somber character study that hinges on the roll of the dice.
Finders Keepers- A storage locker. A severed leg in a charcoal grill inside the locker. Two men and their fight over the leg. That's all I'll say. See this film.