The true crime story of the South Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, who used the FBI to expand his turf by informing on the local Italian mafia.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon.
Director: Scott Cooper
A long overdue return to form for Johnny Depp, and possibly the best gangster film of the year, Black Mass is full of fine performances by an ensemble cast and an incredible thought provoking story.
Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) is a menacing spectacle, at times a devoted family man, a community minded figure, at others an unstoppable force of violence. In this film, he is well drawn, not a simple villain, a cartoon bad guy, but someone who you relate to, with human foibles, who would go so much further than you can imagine going in the pursuit of his desires. He is somehow supremely evil and yet… I found myself hoping that he got away with it in the end. Perhaps that is the nature of crime stories, though, you don’t want Bonnie and Clyde to get shot, Butch Cassidy and Sundance to get captured… Though Whitey is not half so endearing.
The story is fascinating, as FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who grew up with Whitey and his brother in “Southey”, approaches the man and convinces him of the benefits of informing on the local Italian mob. By doing so, Bulger is able to eliminate them and take over their turf, and Connolly feels that the FBI will have gained important ground. While this is initially true, it’s very clear that Whitey is in control, and gives very little information at all whilst gaining everything, and Connolly finds himself a wealthy man, slowly corrupted by the transaction, and ultimately, the only one to pay the price for the crime.
It’s thought provoking, and a very unusual story, with excellent performances from the whole cast, it had us discussing many points of the film for the whole car ride home.
See It If: you like Donnie Brasco, Casino, The Godfather, etc, if you’ve missed Johnny Depp’s subtler performances, or if you found Legend less than impressive.