Tag Archives: Julianne Nicholson

Black Mass (2015)

Part of me viewed Black Mass as a critic. I took into consideration the actors, the script, the staging, pacing, etc. What about character arcs? What about historical accuracy? You know: the usual. I considered some of the things that usually pop up on the imaginary checklist (like how many trailer-worthy zingers will we endure?) and a few that were more specific to this film (like will Johnny Depp’s makeup look as bad as it did in the set photos?); I considered that I’d have to play the game where you try to compress and bury all of those checklistable points so that you can actually watch the movie. I considered Out of the Furnace, the last film by Black Mass director Scott Cooper, and the frustrating way in which that film tried and nearly succeeded in being an epic like The Deer Hunter. Somehow, one of Furnace‘s major flaws seemed to be that it was only almost that kind of movie, something that attempted an ambitious feat but failed to stick the landing.

But despite a sneaking suspicion regarding that last point Black Mass is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than Out of the Furnace or even Crazy Heart, Cooper’s first two films which both touted incredible performances but misplaced directorial style, and that’s probably because the other part of me viewed it as a Bostonian. The Globe‘s Ty Burr says it best in his review: “For worse and for worser, James “Whitey” Bulger is a son of Boston, and moviegoers here will react differently to Scott Cooper’s film than they will in Seattle, Dallas, or Dubuque.” That was inescapably true for last night’s Boston Common screening, wherein the feeling was that everyone in the theater was already familiar with what was unfolding up on the screen.

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The Red Road 1.2 – “The Wolf and the Dog”

Part of what makes The Red Road so good is the sense that the story being told is both an all-out pedal-to-the-metal crime drama and a meditative slow burn. “The Wolf and the Dog” epitomizes that juxtaposition as well as any other episode of the first season, containing breakneck bursts of action in one scene and calm intensity in the next, toggling effortlessly back and forth throughout the hour. The second episode picks up right after “Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream“, following Harold as he stalks through a junkyard in the early morning hours looking for a bumper to replace the dented one on his truck. Any doubt he had regarding the guilt of his wife Jean in the Ramapo Mountain hit and run is dispelled when he finds a shred of shirt in the old bumper.

Julianne Nicholson’s Jean and Martin Henderson’s Harold get fleshed out a little more in “The Wolf and the Dog”, and their relationship provides more of that simmering calm and apparent collectedness that just begs to boil over. Nicholson makes Jean’s shaky insanity phenomenally convincing, moving frailly from scene to scene like a marionette. What’s interesting is that the hit and run was never really in question for her. She may have been in denial, stating that she hit a deer or a dog instead of a young boy, but she never denied hitting something. Now that Harold has replaced the bumper and done what he can to dispel the rumor of Jean’s guilt, he’s essentially forced her to doubt the one thing that she actually had a firm grip on.

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