Black Mass tells of the career in crime of Boston’s James ‘Whitey’ Bulger (Johnny Depp), FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) whom he corrupts, and various other individuals who help him out or get in his way. The cast is filled with names and those names are all fully bewigged and giving their best Boston accent. Performances are generally good, the period detail is on point, and events unfold as the events unfolded.
I did not enjoy it.
Watching Black Mass was a relatively empty experience. Over the course of two hours so much happened and yet so little seemed to matter. Numerous characters were introduced only to be killed after a scene or simply forgotten about. The criminal elements were constantly discussing details of crimes or people that needing killing in a way that had no impact on the plot and so were not remotely interesting. In fact I don’t think there really was a plot. Whitey was a bad man and that’s about it.
The good guys are mostly in the background despite being portrayed by the likes of Kevin Bacon and Adam Scott. Black Mass took no great interest in the mechanics of their investigation preferring to simply get across the fact that they were vaguely interested in arresting Whitey and leaving it at that. Without anyone to root for I was just left resenting most of the people onscreen and eventually the screen itself.
And the women? What women? I counted at best three female actors in what could be considered major parts; Juno Temple, Dakota Johnson, and Julianne Nicholson. Of these three, two are forgotten about and never given an actual ending while the third is added to the body count after just two scenes.
Black Mass is a continuous cycle of murder, money, talking, murder, money, and talking with a sprinkling of Benedict Cumberbatch as Whitey’s brother sticking out like a sore thumb. The events of the film may well be true but they are not presented in a remotely interesting way. Violence and crime without context are can be incredibly dull.
Expect some buzz around the performances but don’t believe the hype. There is nothing new to see here and your time could be better spent elsewhere.
Black Mass screens at the festival on the 11th, 12th and 16th October and a few tickets can still be found online.
I’m ashamed to say that I was tricked. When I decided to see Afternoon Delight I thought I would be seeing a light-hearted comedy about an unlikely friendship between a bored housewife and a stripper. I was expecting a few laughs and for the stripper to end up turning her life around, the housewife to feel fulfilled, and for me to get some light relief from the emotional onslaught that the London Film Festival has become. Thankfully this was not to be.
The housewife in question is Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) whose career in PR came to a halt following the birth of her son and whose life now consists of crafting with fellow mothers and being ignored by her suddenly successful husband Jeff (Josh Radnor) who is too busy checking his BlackBerry and trying mid-life crisis activities (surfing, forming a band, that sort of thing) with the other dads. Their sex life now non-existent Rachel suggests they go to a strip club in order to spice things up in the bedroom. At the club Rachel gets a lap dance from stripper McKenna (Juno Temple) and they soon form an occasional friendship which results in McKenna moving in with the family after the car she is sleeping in is towed.
So far it sounds like a fun comedy right? A stripper living with a middle class family, whatever next!
Well what happens next is that the comedy slowly turns darker and evolves through comedy-drama into an out-and-out drama. McKenna’s involvement in the sex industry turns out to be much more… practical than they originally thought and the bored and sexually frustrated Rachel allows herself to take the whole situation a little too lightly and gets far to involved in the antics of their house guest.
It isn’t long before Rachel has changed her mind about McKenna as soon she no longer wants to save the young woman from a life of prostitution but instead simply wants her out of the house. Over one evening we see the mothers and fathers have separate drunken nights in and as the drink flows the camera starts to veer all over the place and in gloriously dramatic fashion everything comes to a head. What seemed like a bit of fun suddenly garners serious consequences and the polite world they inhabit with its first world problems comes crashing down around everyone involved.
Writer/director Jill Soloway has done a remarkable job of creating a film with such a dramatic shift in tone from start to finish. I was completely wrong footed and totally underestimated the film’s emotional potential when it began. Kathryn Hahn gives a hilarious but deeply sad performance as the women who proves that the devil makes work for idle thumbs and Juno Temple is surprisingly sympathetic as the sex worker who decides that revenge is a dish best served naked. Josh Radnor is Josh Radnor, which is no bad thing, and Jane Lynch manages to get a laugh simply by appearing on-screen in her small role as Rachel’s therapist.
Don’t underestimate Afternoon Delight; it may seem like a simple comedy but it has a sting in its tail that will strike once your defences are down.
Afternoon Delight does not yet have a UK release date.
It took a while for me to settle into Kaboom with it’s “quirky” dialogue and overly boosted colours but I gradually settled into what seemed like a slightly above average sex comedy. Then it all got a bit weird and a global cult and a witch were introduced, the colours got brighter and the dialogue got quirkier.
According to the rest of the audience Kaboom is hilarious, not only the one liners got a laugh but sometimes just a scene change warranted a chuckle for no good reason. One man in front of me even did the full rocking back and forth and clapping routine twice. I think they were all plants because Kaboom is nowhere near as funny as all that.
If you’ve ever wanted to see the Thomas Dekker, Juno Temple, Haley Bennett or Roxane Mesquida naked then you’re in luck… otherwise I wouldn’t bother. It seems Mysterious Skin was a one-off bit of brilliance from Gregg Araki.
There’s a chance Kaboom was brilliantly stylised and I just didn’t get it, but more likely it’s a terrible film. Luckily there is no UK release date just yet.