Johnny Depp is scary as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass but it’s not enough to make this movie a blockbuster. I’m giving it a B-.
James “Whitey” Bulger grew up on the streets of South Boston and made a name for himself as a thug. After a stint in Alcatraz, he sets out to hit the big time as a leader of the Irish Mafia in Boston. With the help of the FBI, his killing spree becomes legendary.
Black Mass comes across as a documentary, detailing the rise and fall of James Bulger. Johnny Depp is almost unrecognizable with the bald patch and blue eyes but it’s the stillness, the obsessive control that shows his depth of getting into the mind and personality of this killer. It might garner him a few award nods.
There’s really no characters to connect with in this story and that’s what makes this movie hard to love. You come away with a better understanding of James Bulger and his team, but you’re not sorry for the choices they made. Everyone was fodder if they got in his way or went against him. I found myself admiring his cunning at using others for his own benefit (such as the FBI), but hated that he used everyone in his life…his brother, friends…and no one was safe from his retribution. He gives new meaning to cold-blooded killer.
Benedict Cumberbatch did an amazing job as James’s younger brother who was an important figure in Boston’s government. The question of how much his influence kept Whitey safe, was never really answered. I don’t think we will really know. But he wasn’t the only big name…Dakota Johnson and Kevin Bacon also had wonderful performances.
Black Mass would make a wonderful drinking game movie, since there’s so many F bombs that you would be smashed in the first fifteen minutes of the film. The numerous cold-blooded assassinations make this a movie not for the faint of heart.
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