Johnny Depp is back on the big screen this weekend with new gangster film Black Mass, which sees him take on the real-life role of Boston criminal Whitey Bulger; who occupied the top spot on the FBI's Most Wanted List for several years.

Black Mass

Black Mass

Depp's central performance has already been winning over critics and audiences and he is tipped to potentially be in the Best Actor Oscar race at the beginning of next year.

However, Depp is no stranger to taking on criminal movie roles, having tackling there genre on more than one occasion during his career. We take a look at Depp's criminal (film) past.

- George Jung in Blow (2001)

It was back in 2001 when Depp returned to the big screen to take on the role of infamous cocaine smuggler George Jung, also known as 'Boston George', in Blow. The movie was based on the book by Bruce Porter, which was inspired by events of Jung's life. Ted Demme was in the director's chair for the film.

Jung worked closely with the Medellin Cartel as a middle man between Colombian cocaine tycoon Pablo Escobar and the United States, thereby effectively establishing the American cocaine market and amassing over $10 million in profit. He would later be arrested after being betrayed by one of his associates. Jung was released from prison in 2014.

Depp interviewed Jung in preparation for his role as the notorious dealer and the two have remained in contact ever since. Depp stars opposite Penelope Cruz and a very young Emma Roberts in her first film role.

It is Depp's performance that elevates Blow as he really gets under the skin of Jung - a man who can never quite shake of the lure of the criminal world. The movie is not without its flaws and it doesn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to this genre of film, but Depp is terrific.

He really does put a sympathetic and human face on such an infamous criminal - who perhaps wouldn't have been as likeable a character in less hands.


- Donnie Brasco in Donnie Brasco (1997)

Hard to believe that Donnie Brasco is a movie that is almost twenty years old and it saw Depp team up with Al Pacino for the first time.

Mike Newell was in the director's chair for the film, which was based on the true story of Joseph D. Pistone, an undercover agent who finds himself struggling between his loyalty to the mob boss who took him in (played by Al Capone) and his role as a federal agent who is supposed to be dismantling the mob.

Donnie Brasco was one of the nineties movies that helped put Depp on the map as the film was met with critical acclaim - as was Depp's central performance.

This was a movie that really did take us into the world of organised crime - the character of Brasco was very much the audience's way into that world and we saw that world through his eyes.

As well as being a great crime/drama, Donnie Brasco was also a wonderful character study of Brasco himself. Brasco is a man for whom the lines start to become blurred the deeper and deeper he gets into this world and becomes attached to those that live in it.

Depp and Pacino are wonderful and together, they light up the big screen and tell a very compelling, interesting, and intelligent story.

Donnie Brasco

- John Dillinger in Public Enemies (2009)

In the summer of 2009 Depp took on the role of another real-life criminal as he teamed up with filmmaker Michael Mann for Public Enemies.

Depp took on the role of John Dillinger, who lead a crime way in the 1930s, leading him to become one of the most wanted men in America and one of their most infamous criminals.

Depp earned rave reviews for his portrayal of the last few years in the life of infamous Chicago gangster and bank robber John Dillinger. Dillinger was the type of charming character who was perhaps more idolized by the public in the 1930s than vilified for his role as a criminal.

He escaped from prison twice and the tales of his robberies and escapades made him as famous as some Hollywood stars of the time. Dillinger led police on a chase across the Midwest before he was finally gunned down outside a Chicago movie theatre. Ultimately, the US government spent more money trying to catch the famous criminal than he ever actually stole. Depp played opposite Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard in this 2009 film.

There was a real swagger to Depp in the role as Dillinger and there is a charm and a charism also to this villain - you really cannot help but like him. It was great to see Depp in a more 'normal' acting role and he really did create a very layered and interesting character. Throw in a stylish look from director Mann, and Public Enemies is a film not to be missed if you are a fan of this genre and this actor.

Public Enemies

- James 'Whitey' Bulger in Black Mass (2015)

It is fair to say that Depp has made a few poor choices when it has come to acting roles of late... but Black Mass really will see him back on top.

The Oscar nominated actor looks almost unrecognisable as Bulger and I cannot wait to see him in action alongside Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, and Joel Edgerton.

Black Mass tells the true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.

Black Mass has been winning over critics and audiences ever since it started screening on the festival circuit and it is a November movie that is not to be missed.

The movie sees Depp team up with filmmaker Scott Cooper for the first time as he returns to the director's chair. Cooper has already brought us Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace and I can't wait to see what he delivers this time around.

Black Mass

Black Mass is out now.

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