Main Plot Points:
- In 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) persuades Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) to collaborate with the FBI and eliminate a common enemy: the Italian mob.
- The drama tells the story of this unholy alliance, which spiraled out of control, allowing Whitey to evade law enforcement, consolidate power, and become one of the most ruthless and powerful gangsters in Boston history.
- What We Thought:
- Black Mass is a difficult film to review. Not because it’s a bad movie, far from it. It’s just difficult to separate fact from fiction.
- I grew up in a Boston Irish Catholic family during Whitey’s reign. You hear stories, know other stories and well, I’ll just leave it at that. I’m trying to keep the “truth” and Hollywood story separate without being negative towards the film itself.
- So that being said, the movie is incredibly well acted. The supporting cast is top notch. Jesse Plemons, coming off Breaking Bad, is very good as Kevin Weeks. Rory Cochrane is more than solid as Steve “The Rifleman” Flemmi. Juno Temple has a small role, but drops her accent and picks up a Boston one. Dakota Johnson has some heartbreaking scenes opposite Whitey.
- Joel Edgerton plays the corrupt FBI agent John Connolly. I’ve liked Edgerton for a long time and he’s perfect for this role. You’re never quite sure if he’s a good guy, bad guy or just someone who thought he was helping a friend in order to get information in return.
- Benedict Cumberbatch is also quite good. He doesn’t really look like the real life Billy Bulger, but like Edgerton walks an uneasy line. Did he help cover up his brother’s activities? Did he keep his nose clean despite having a mobster brother? Cumberbatch handles it well.
- The breakout star will be Julianne Nicholson. She steals scenes opposite her male counterparts and is just as powerful as her husband in the film. As the wife of Connolly, she wanted nothing to do with the lifestyle he found himself in and Nicholson shines doing it.
- Then there’s Whitey himself, Johnny Depp. Depp has been a good actor for decades now, but over the past few years has found himself in odd films with even odder characters. He kind of became a caricature of himself. But this finds him returning to form. Is it an Oscar worthy performance? At times. He has some scary, amazing, bad ass moments in the film and biopics usually get you a nomination. I’m sure he’ll get nominated, but I don’t see him winning.
- With every film that takes a real story and makes it “Hollywood-ized” I watch for the acting and direction. I know some of the story in Black Mass is made up for the film and a lot of other stories that were actually shot got cut from the film so I really focused on the acting. Depp proves why he was considered one of the best at one point and the film will stop his string of box office disasters. The supporting cast is fantastic as well. If Whitey Bulger wasn’t that known outside of New England, he’s about to be.
Notable Cast & Crew:
- Johnny Depp
- Benedict Cumberbatch
- Joel Edgerton
- Dakota Johnson
- Kevin Bacon
Recommended if You Like:
- The Departed
- Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger
- Boston Crime Stories