|BLACK MASS (director: Scott Cooper; screenwriters: Mark Mallou/Jez Butterworth/based on the book by Dick Lehr & Gerard O’Neill; cinematographers: Masanobu Takayanagi; editor: David Rosenbloom; music: Tom Holkenborg; cast: Joel Edgerton (John Connolly), Johnny Depp (James "Whitey" Bulger), Benedict Cumberbatch (Billy Bulger), Dakota Johnson (Lindsey Cyr), Kevin Bacon (Charles NcGuire), Peter Sarsgaard (Brian Halloran), Jesse Plemons (Kevin Weeks), Rory Cochrane (Steve Flemmi), Julianne Nicholson (Marianne Connolly), Mary Klug (Mom Bulger), David Harbour (John Morris), Corey Stoll (Fred Wyshak); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Richard Mirisch; Warner Bros.; 2015)|
|"An amazing subdued performance in
evil by Depp."
by Dennis Schwartz
Scott Cooper ("Out of the
Furnace"/"Crazy Heart") directed real-life story of
the notorious South Boston crime kingpin
James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) is
based on the book by Dick Lehr & Gerard
O’Neill (They have cameos). They're the Boston
Globe reporters who researched the case and
whose headline investigative story signaled the end
was near for Whitey. Mark
Mallou and Jez Butterworth turn
in a fine Hollywood script, even if it lacks depth.
The well-produced sprawling film, even though limited
in scope, is assuredly directed by Cooper, has an
amazing subdued performance in evil by Depp (almost
unrecognizable in a latex face), entertains stylishly
like a 1970s gangster film, and lucidly tells the
nasty Bulger crime story. He's Boston's Irish
psychopathic gang leader, murderer, extortionist, drug
dealer, IRA arms dealer and racketeer. The pic
also finely details the unlikable Whitey's
inappropriate connection with the FBI. Whitey is used
as a snitch by the ambitious FBI agent Connolly (Joel
Edgerton), who promises the mobster no interference
from the feds if intel against Italian mobsters from
the North Side of town is provided. Connolly's a snake
who advances his career while ignoring Whitey's long
string of violent criminal activity. He's a childhood
friend of Whitey's, who under the guise of collecting
evidence from Bulger enables him to become the kingpin
of crime in Boston.
unpleasant story accurately traces Whitey's crime
spree from 1975 to 1994, when Whitey went on the run
and was not caught until 16 years later. We learn
about Whitey's rise as the leader of
the Winter Hill Gang, his turf wars with the Italian
mob, his various illegal enterprises, his assassinations
and the double-crosses among the gangsters. In the end
credits we learn that Whitey's now behind bars as a
lifetime prison guest
should annoy the viewer as a slime-ball lawman.
But his performance is right on as the ambitious FBI
man who is seduced by his childhood hero gangster pal,
as he sells his soul for promotions and material gain.
It's also commendable that Edgerton talks
like a real Bostonian, with a perfect accent.
brother Bill (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a powerful
state senator and later is
the president of the University of Massachusetts,
who served both offices without blemish even while
pretending to be unaware of his brother's criminal
activity. Dakota Johnson has an
undeveloped role as Whitey's girlfriend and the mother
of his son. Julianne Nicholson is the
concerned wife of John Connolly, unable to reel him
in from being a bad cop.
grim film paints a bleak picture of Boston's crime
scene and how amazingly ineffective were the FBI in
nabbing Whitey. What it fails to touch on is
Whitey's psyche and what makes him tick. It's more
interested in giving us a laundry list of his crimes
and how a corrupt society enabled such a vicious
misfit. The film leaves no hidden messages.
What you get on first viewing is all you'll ever get.
REVIEWED ON 9/18/2015 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ