Is 'Black Mass' Johnny Depp's Next Chance at an Oscar? The Critics Weigh In

Johnny Depp in "Black Mass"
Johnny Depp in “Black Mass”

Johnny Depp is back in favor with critics.

After a disastrous string of flops in “Mortdecai,” last year’s “Transcendence” and 2013’s “The Lone Ranger,” his latest performance as a greyed FBI informant in “Black Mass” won praise Friday after debuting at the Venice Film Festival.

In the biopic, the hunky star makes a transformative appearance as Whitey Bulger, a balding, iced-blue-eyed mobster who is now incarcerated for life on charges connected to 19 murders, among other crimes.

It’s an unhinged turn for Depp, who scored his first Oscar nod for 2003’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” in what’s being hailed by some critics as the best role of his career.

And it seems the ship has not yet sailed on his chances at nabbing a golden statue.

“After too many Caribbean vacations, Johnny Depp finally gets back down to some serious business in ‘Black Mass,’… Depp’s instinct for observing, underplaying and keeping things in, then letting it all out when required, pays big dividends here … it’s unexpected, very welcome at this point in his career, and one of his best.” –Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“Depp more than rises to the occasion, doing career-best work as a man who might easily have been played for ghoulish caricature (a la Jack Nicholson in ‘The Departed’), but instead emerges as a complex, undeniably charismatic figure who draws other criminals and lawmen alike into his cult of sociopathic personality…the actor playing Bulger embodies the role, or rather disappears into it…” –Scott Foundas, Variety

But for some who see Depp plastered in prosthetics, looking uncharacteristically like himself, it’s a bit of history repeating.

“Depp is in good, wily form as Bulger, underplaying even the man’s most violent outbursts with a low vocal burr that at times seems indebted to Jack Nicholson. But it’s a role of pretty pinched dramatic range, and while Depp hits its required note of icily implacable menace with film-serving consistency, he’s been more suggestive and expressive in other parts — even ones where he’s been as heavily caked in makeup. (One might say that ‘Black Mass’ shows us Depp as we’ve never seen him before, but that goes for rather a lot of his performances.)” –Guy Lodge, Variety

Watch the trailer below.