Black Mass

"Good"

Black Mass Review


For a biopic of a real-life person, this feels like an oddly standard mob thriller. It's the true story of Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, and it's told with gritty filmmaking and robust performances. But there's very little about the movie that sets it apart, leaving it as yet another depiction of violent criminal ambition and betrayal. And by the end, it's difficult to escape the feeling that we've seen it all before.

It opens in 1975 South Boston, where Jimmy Bulger (Johnny Depp) runs the Irish mafia, while his brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a senator. Their childhood friend John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) is an FBI agent who has asked for their help in taking down the rival Angiulo family, which Jimmy sees as a win-win situation: he'll get rid of the competition while avoiding jail himself. Over the next 10 years, Jimmy expands his operation dramatically, and he's not afraid to get his own hands dirty as he sorts out problems that are created by his sidekicks (including Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemons and W. Earl Brown), all of whom are increasingly annoyed at his control-freak ways. But as Jimmy becomes even more notorious, the FBI boss (Kevin Bacon) pressures John to take him down.

The actors dive into their roles. Depp transforms himself physically into a prowling thug with terrifyingly piercing eyes. He may be a heartless killer, but he's also a caring family man. Opposite him, Edgerton has a trickier role as a federal agent who operates more like the gangster he'd rather be, casually ignoring the law to push his own agenda. In the sprawling supporting cast, only a few characters emerge memorably: Cumberbatch has a sparky presence, Cochrane offers some thoughtfulness, and Bacon gets to chomp on the scenery. Other roles are much briefer, especially the sidelined female characters.

This lack of texture makes the film feel rather simplistic, with an overwhelming machismo that's obvious rather than revelatory. This also leaves the film without much of a moral centre, since even the cops are essentially goons and there's no one the audience can sympathise with. Director Scott Cooper assembles the film beautifully, although his clever direction and sharp sense of the period almost make it a celebration of criminality, as he depicts Bulger's empire-building as a swirl of brutal killings and groovy, celebrity-packed nightclubs. So in the end, even though we can admire the skilled filmmaking and committed acting, there's nothing here that wasn't depicted with more originality and insight in GoodFellas or The Sopranos.

Rich Cline

Watch the trailer for Black Mass here:



Black Mass

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 122 mins

In Theaters: Friday 18th September 2015

Box Office USA: $60.2M

Box Office Worldwide: $80.2M

Budget: $53M

Distributed by: Warner Bros Pictures

Production compaines: Warner Bros., Cross Creek Pictures, Grisbi Productions, RatPac-Dune Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Fresh: 151 Rotten: 49

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , John Lesher, , Brian Oliver, Tyler Thompson

Starring: as James 'Whitey' Bulger, as John Connolly, as Billy Bulger, as Lindsey Cyr, as Charles McGuire, as Kevin Weeks, as Fred Wyshak, as Brian Halloran, as Deborah Hussey, as FBI Agent Robert Fitzpatrick, as Marianne Connolly, as Steve Flemmi, as John Martorano, as Mrs. Cody, as John Morris, as Agent Scott Gariola, as Josh Bond, Erica McDermott as Mary Bulger, Brad Carter as John McIntyre, as John Callahan, Danae Nason as McGuire's Secretary, Bretton Manley as Young Boy, Scott G. Anderson as Tommy King, Owen Burke as Buddy Leonard, Berglind Jonsdottir as Anna Bjornsdottir, Mark Mahoney as Mickey Maloney, as DEA Agent Eric Olsen (Interrogator), Mary Klug as Mom Bulger, Luke Ryan as Douglas Cyr, Lewis D Wheeler as Jeremiah O'Sullivan, Robert Walsh as Sr. FBI Official (voice), Billy Meleady as Joe Cahill, David De Beck as Roger Wheeler

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