Directed by Scott Cooper, ‘Black Mass‘ is a 2015 true crime biographical film about how the FBI struck a deal with the mobster Whitey Bulger in order to get information about other criminals.
FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) arrives in his old neighborhood in Boston, being assigned to the FBI branch there. He convinces his fellow agent John Morris (David Harbour) to use the Winter Hill Gang leader Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) as an informant in order to catch other criminals. While hesitant, Agents Charles McGuire (Kevin Bacon) and Robert Fitzpatrick (Adam Scott) agree to go along. Connolly contacts politician Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch) who refuses to reach out. Though Billy refuses, Whitey contacts John who agrees to this arrangement as it eliminates his competition. Whitey and his right-hand man Stephen Flemmi (Rory Cochrane) and thug Kevin Weeks (Jesse Plemons) begin a reign of terror in their neighborhood. John’s relationship with Bulger puts a strain on his wife Marianne (Julianne Nicholson) and his fellow agents, who begin to wonder about how anything that implicates Bulger in Boston crimes mysteriously vanishes.
A lot of the movie is told through narrative flashbacks from the perspective of some of Bulger’s gangs and while the actors do a good job with it, I felt that it was unnecessary to the movie. I think if they had just focused on a forward-moving timeline, it would have weaved together a bit more satisfactory.
That being said, this was a very good movie. The story is compelling as you watch how corruption, even in the form of simply wanting to belong, can seep into the heart. Connolly started out as an agent who wanted to help Boston, but the lifestyle of Bulger pulled him and a fellow agent down. I cannot comment on the historical accuracy of the film, but I can tell you it is compelling.
As for the acting, everyone does an excellent job. I will admit, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Boston accent did not impress me, but outside of that, he did good. Edgerton is also in rare form as you could feel the tension he brings to his fellow team. Kevin Bacon and Adam Scott also work well as the FBI agents growing frustrated with how the whole situation is working out. Dakota Johnson has a small, but significant role as Bulger’s girlfriend and she was good in it.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Johnny Depp’s performance as Bulger. It was stunning and truly shows his range as an actor. People Magazine critic Lindsay Kimble called it an “Oscar snub” that he was not nominated for his performance and I happen to agree. He mesmerizes you from beginning to end as to just how violent Whitey could be, but manipulative enough to keep his circle loyal to him. That is what draws you into the movie.
Bottom line, Black Mass is now one of my favorite gangster films. It grabs you from the very beginning, making you shocked and stunned at the events unfolding before you.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Strong foul language, Strong violence
FAVORITE QUOTE: Take your shot, but make it your best. ‘Cause I get up, I eat ya.
Check out the trailer below:
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Tell me if there is a comic book, movie, or novel you would like me to review. While you are at it, check out my reviews of Space Cowboys and Soylent Green. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more posts like this one.