Directed by Scott Cooper
Written by Jez Butterworth and Mark Mallouk
Starring: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Corey Stoll, Peter Sarsgaard, Dakota Johnson and Adam Scott
Black Mass based on the book, Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. The film follows the saga of South Boston crime boss James ‘Whitey’ Bulger (Depp) as he becomes an informant for FBI. So that he can take down the Italian Mafia (his competition) and uses his contacts in the FBI to his advantage.
Black Mass is an excellent gangster film that foregoes the traditional Hollywood glamorization of the gangster lifestyle for a gritty, realistic tone. That is a credit to the fact that the movie based on a true story of a violent criminal and the direction of Scott Cooper. Cooper made a film that is a fascinating character study of Jimmy Bulger. The movie does explore a little of the person Bulger was outside the criminal activities. With a look at family life, a bit about his background growing up in South Boston, and the kind of community that exists in South Boston. A decision made by Cooper that gives the film a well-rounded perspective of Bulger as more than just one of America’s most notorious gangsters. Although, because the movie is about Jimmy Bulger many of the supporting characters do not have enough time to fully developed their subplots in the film. The film feels like many of the subplots unfold too quickly, and that these subplots are missing relevant information. With many of the supporting characters being underused, the talented supporting cast (except Edgerton) is all but wasted because of the limited screen time.
The best part of Black Mass was the performance of Johnny Depp as Bulger. Depp perfectly portrays the violent, brutal, sociopathic, and any other similar adjective you can think of, which describe Bulger. Depp gives what may well be a career-best performance, for Depp Black Mass is much like what Silver Linings Playbook was for Robert De Niro. Prior to Playbook De Niro had given many years of phoned in performances, and Playbook was the return of De Niro to being one of the great actors of all time. Depp has been stuck in a rut doing his Johnny Depp quirky character thing, and there are people of a certain age who think that the only thing Depp has to offer is Captain Jack Sparrow. Black Mass succeeds in showing the Pirates of the Caribbean generation that Depp is one of the finest actors working Hollywood today. As a side note, Depp has set the bar for the Oscar race for best actor. Therefore, if any other actor wants to have their metaphoric horse in the Oscar race, they have to reach that bar.
Black Mass is a film that at its best contains excellent direction, well written, well acted (despite underusing the supporting cast). At its worst, the movie was better when it was called The Departed. Fun fact, Scorsese had based part of that film on Bulger’s story. Black Mass receives 4.5/5.