With the stellar star cast it has, does Black Mass deserve your AED 35? Here’s our Black Mass Review:
The true story of James Whitey Bulger – one of America’s most notorious crime lords from South Boston, and his unholy “alliance’’ with the FBI to bring down an enemy Mafia family.
’You didn’t get into trouble because you punched the boy, you got into trouble because you punched the boy and got caught’’
After a dozen scattered references across movies spanning over a decade, as well as characters based on him, the Whitey Bulger Biopic is finally out. The above advice given by James Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) to his son describes everything you need to know about the character. The year is 1975, and striving young FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) decides to clean up the city by going after the Angiulo family, who are the Mafia kingpins of Boston. He decides to approach Whitey, who is his childhood friend and at the time an Irish mob godfather from the Winter Hill gang. They strike up an ‘’alliance’’, wherein secrets would be traded from Whitey to the FBI about the Mafia, and in return the FBI would turn a blind eye to Whitey’s ‘Work Life’. The brother of the state senator Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch), Whitey uses his Carte Blanche status to rise to the top of the power circle in Boston by engaging in racketeering, extortion and murder. While the agency is breathing down Connolly’s neck, Whitey runs rampant with crime throughout notable years in their dark relationship. Other than portraying life as in informant for a mob boss, the film also manages to highlight the deep levels of corruption in the FBI.
Scott In The Act
Director Scott Cooper does a glorious job of revising almost 30 years of one of the most infamous personalities in American history into one feature film. A longer run time would have done the movie a few favors, but some would find the already existing one sluggish. Much like his previous two flicks, Cooper comes with a lot of promise for the future. Although Scorcese-like during many instances, the film manages to do justice to the genre while making fine use of an established ensemble cast.
Writers Jez Butterworth and Mark Mallouk hit the right notes with the docudrama style progression of the story. Even while displaying some of the most morbid scenes ever seen in the gangster genre, they managed not to glorify gangster life.
What deserves a special mention is the production design by Stefania Cella, and the cinematography by Mananobu Takanayagi is also dazzling. The Boston of 1975 has been shown in fine detail, barring few factual errors. Junkie XL disappointed with the background score. This was a surprise as the whole dynamic could have been altered with the right score.
Johnny Oh Johnny
The acting in this movie as expected, is par excellence. While watching the trailer, I noticed that even with a line-up with such big names, all the focus was solely on Depp, with flashes of the others. It was evident that they were trying to throw all the spotlights on him, and it is a gamble that paid off well. Johnny Depp leaves you thunderstruck almost at the end of every scene. After almost a decade of quirk-driven and fun-oriented characters, Depp shows the world what made him the powerhouse that he is today. Certain scenes like the steak dinner, or the scene with Marianne Connolly right after, leave you mesmerized. This is the third gangster biopic that Depp has played (Public Enemies & Blow previously), and it is safe to say that it is his best work. Make-up transformation aside, he disappears into the role of a psychopathic gangster. There will be a few eyebrows raised if he doesn’t make an Oscar nod this year.
Joel Edgerton has evolved over the years and this is certainly proof of it. His performance as a slimy FBI agent is archetypal. His accent seemed worked on, but effective nonetheless. Benedict Cumberbatch tried too hard to sound southern and ended up making a meal of his character – an unnecessary casting in my opinion. Kevin Bacon and Corey Stoll put in stellar performances, although both looked like they were from another timeline. Jesse Plemons and Rory Cochrane both outdid themselves. A lot was expected of Dakota Johnson, but she disappoints as Mrs. Bulger. The hospital scene is a clear indication of this.
All in all
The film lacks any true signature to set it apart from any other classic gangster film. That is merely an observation to maybe quell any exuberant expectations in terms of twists in the plot or creativity in plot progression. It is quite simply a biopic stating facts. That being said, it is an amazing watch, especially for fans of the genre. Watch it for Depp, if not anything else.