South Boston organized crime. Based on true events, this is about Jimmy ‘Whitey’ Bulger (Johnny Depp) and how he aligned himself with FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) to take down competing criminals, all the while running the enterprise behind the scenes. This was a story that I wasn’t all that familiar with; I lived in New England for the first 16 years of my life, but it never reached me. My father was in town for the weekend, so I figured why not take in a sample of my roots?
Now I am personally of the opinion that Johnny Depp has been slumming it recently; if you take a look at his previous 6 movies he has had a role in, the only one I have anything good to say about is Into the Woods, which he is barely in. He’s finally in a role where he’s trying again, and it is good to see. He really captures the character of Whitey Bulger, and while I did see the actor Johnny Depp when he was onscreen, there were moments throughout where I forgot it was him, which is better than his most recent track record. He looks scary and intimidating, which is needed for the part, and he looks more like a vampire than he did in Dark Shadows. When he starts to interrogate, ask questions and fish for information, you get nervous because he is so prone to fly off the handle, so I would call this film effective in that regard. The other really worthwhile element to Black Mass is the strength of the cast. You’ve got Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, and Cory Stoll. Even recognizable faces like Adam Scott and Juno Temple show up for very small roles, just a hint more than a cameo, it is really that jam packed with talent. They all commit to it, and we, as an audience, get rewarded with a quality product.
The movie that this reminds me of most is The Departed, which is a coincidence because Jack Nicholson’s fictional character from that movie is based on this real life person portrayed here. Black Mass is all about violent tough guys, and so much of this movie is expletives, ball-busting, and people getting murdered in cars; I am not exaggerating when I say that I can’t think of another movie out there that has more scenes of people getting murdered in cars than this one here. Black Mass accomplishes everything it set out to do, but I would never go so far to label this an instant classic like I would The Departed, the script just doesn’t have that same degree of sparkle. I can’t help but wonder what we could have gotten had this been directed by Martin Scorsese, but that is all purely speculative. This is a guy movie with bleak undertones, the cast is well-picked, and while I’m not certain how well this will stand the test of time in terms of being memorable, I still think it’s worth a watch.
Black Mass (2015) ***1/2
– Critic for Hire