Once upon a time, Johnny Depp was synonymous with artistic integrity, a heartthrob who counterintuitively evolved into a superstar by resisting his matinee-idol looks in favor of whacked-out character-actor roles that sparked his imagination. And then Pirates of the Caribbean happened, and the rest is Bruckheimer-produced history Depp’s descent into self-parody has certainly been lucrative — these days, the man can buy islands the way the rest of us buy coffee — but his reputation isn’t what it used to be, (a few Mortdecais will do that to you). But you dismiss one of the world’s last true movie stars at your own peril.
This weekend’s Black Mass, in which the actor aims a loaded shotgun at our lowered expectations, could be the spark that ignites the Deppessaince. (Hey, if McConaughey gets one, our man Johnny should too). Smothering his good looks under a thin head of hair and his expressive eyes beneath a pair of cloudy contact lenses, Depp plays notorious Boston mobster Whitey Bulger with the kind of violent urgency you can’t take for granted. The jury is still out on the overall effect: Some think that the gangster role is a return to form; others argue that it’s just a more violent and Oscar-friendly version of the same grandstanding that’s defined the back half of Depp’s working life. Still, the fact that everyone’s buzzing about it is a testament to the incredible scope of his legacy, slightly tainted or otherwise. Join us as we look back at the good, bad, and very ugly of a truly unusual career.