In 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent
John Connolly (Edgerton) persuades Irish mobster Jimmy
Bulger (Depp) to collaborate with the FBI in order to
eliminate their 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 while
consolidating his power and becoming one of the most
ruthless and dangerous gangsters in Boston history.
REVIEW: The flick
opens with an overlay of narration and what appears to be a
studying of faces; faces that have been distorted by makeup,
contact lenses and the seventies/eighties hairstyles, which
all seem to aim to remove any semblance of baggage of the
stars’ and their previous roles. And as far as that
objective goes, with Johnny Depp, they were entirely
successful in immersing audiences into the likeness of
Whitey Bulger’s form and appearance. Depp’s transformation
was a makeup and performance work of art in its own right.
It’s a performance piece that allows audiences to totally
engulf themselves into the character without thinking of
Depp himself. He [Depp] disappears into the character;
lurking irremovably underneath those vampiric blue eyes
while the appropriate creepiness of his actions is still a
recognizable characteristic of Bulger himself. The rest of
the ensemble cast of actors dons the unusual suspect typical
mobster personas bringing to life, the essence of the true
life crime story.
This however, is with the
exception of talented actor Benedict Cumberbatch (The
Imitation Game, 2014), whom, in my opinion totally destroyed
every line he uttered in the Bostonian accent. What a shame,
for such a talented actor. It was, literally, quite painful
to sit through his scenes. Somehow he seemed to struggle
with the basic intonations of the accent and just simply
sounded like an idiot. Now, having said this, his acting was
still on point, despite his epic fail with his lines.
Besides this, another obvious problem is that Bulger’s
story is far too complex and meandering to be contained in a
simple two-hour film, especially one that pays homage to
most, if not all details of the true-life crime drama.
Nevertheless, the attention to detail is consistent and
the recreations of a specific time period are very much
convincing and are both skillfully executed visual tactics.
This results in the story and its one hundred and twenty-two
minute play-time, being boosted to some degree.
many levels, Black Mass is an examination of a real-world
monster, stuck to a true-to-life basis and condemned to a
somewhat of an anticlimactic, unsurprising ending, due to
the nature of the events that led up to the finality (If two
life sentences can be considered a closure) of the story.
Overall, it should be said that stronger films have
captured the essence of Whitey Bulger and one has to look no
further than Martin Scorsese’s stylistic “The Departed;”
staring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson, amongst the
many others. However, for those interested, seeking out
other perspectives on the legal facts of the story; Joe
Berlinger’s 2014’s documentary, “Whitey: United States of
America v. James J. Bulger,” is a very detailed viewpoint to
be observed. I believe three and a half out of five stars
are well deserved here and it is worth the theater visit for
the visual dramatics of it all.
By Movi-Man Stan
MOVIE REVIEWS >>>