Scott Cooper continues to take Hollywood by surprise with yet another complex and thrilling film that is will keep audiences on the edges of their seats from beginning to end. Known for the Jeff Bridges comeback film Crazy Heart and the star-studded Christian Bale and Casey Affleck dramatic thriller Out of the Furnace, Cooper’s third major theatrical release is already screaming Oscar buzz. This is a great film, no doubt, but the only thing matching Johnny Depp’s transformative acting chops are that of the director’s ability to subtly trick the audience into rooting for the bad guys, of which there are many. It is hard to relate to a gangster or a scumbag, but where Scorsese and Tarantino have led us astray, Cooper unapologetically offers up a solution: portray them as humans first, criminals second.
Johnny Depp’s performance is nothing short of terrifying. Known as an actor who refuses to cater to specific audiences, some fans were beginning to doubt if Depp was ever going to get his time to shine again. Portraying real-life gangsters and charismatic psychopaths seems to be an art form in and of itself, but Depp utterly nails the role. He’s scary, gross, uncomfortable, and altogether real. The only negative (which some reviewers are labeling as again strength in the form of restraint) is that Depp simply is not in enough of the film. He is the most important character, but would the various award-electing bodies of Hollywood truly label him as a lead actor in what is technically a fantastic supporting role? Only time will tell.
Additional star power in the form of Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Dakota Johnson, Jesse Plemons, Peter Sarsgaard, Julianne Nicholson, Bill Camp, W. Earl Brown, David Harbour, Rory Cochrane, Corey Stoll, and Juno Temple show that actors are quite literally lining up to work with not only the director, but with its living legend of a lead actor. Not a single talent is wasted, but it is hard to measure up against that of Depp when he is truly in his element. He has played his fair share of amoral protagonists or even questionably ignoble anti-heroes, but never before has he so completely captivated audiences as he is currently doing in theaters all over the world. You will root for the bad guys, but you certainly won’t want him to get away. After all, he’s almost too realistic.
My Rating: 5/5