Last night I shuffled over to the Grove to see how Black Mass would play a second time. The first reaction is always the truest, but sometimes a film will improve its game upon a second or third viewing. Spotlight, I can tell you, was a little bit grabbier the second time and that was after falling in love with it initially. Michael Clayton gained slightly the second time and even more so the third time. But Black Mass went down a bit. Because it’s basically just another violent, decently-shaped but unexceptional Boston crime saga (this happens, that happens, this happens, that happens) with an ice-cold, husky-eyed mofo at the center of it and a profoundly irritating second lead — Joel Edgerton‘s John Connolly, a cloying low-life with a Bahstun accent and a closet full of blue suits and a tendency to over-sell almost every line and scene. Edgerton drove me crazier and crazier. I finally had to get out of there. I bailed at the 85-minute mark.
On 9.7 I allowed that Black Mass is as authentic and hard-edged as The Departed, but that it’s somewhat more modest, certainly less stylized and with a bit less swagger. And yet “straight and hard and cold as the wind that skirts around Southy in January.” I wrote that Cooper had stuck to “his own scheme” and “brought that home” as far as it went. I complained about Edgerton’s acting, calling it “too broad and unsubtle within the realm of the tale.” And I complained about Depp’s overly made-up appearance (hair-sprayed Bulger wig, colored contact lenses). Same reactions last night, except it felt like half-eaten cereal this time.
On top of which the Grove’s sound levels were significantly lower than those at the Telluride Film Festival and at the various showings in Toronto. (Even the dreaded Princess of Wales theatre had louder sound — it’s just too echo-y.) I was sitting in the third row last night and cupping my ears half the time. I paid $15 to watch a film on a big screen that sounded like a whisper? Yes, I did. Because of the same old crap exhibitor rationale about wanting to extend the life of their speakers by turning the sound down. This is why it’s a better idea half the time to just watch films at home.