Biographical drama based on the real life of Irish-American mob boss Whitey Bulger in the 80s, one of the most violent criminals in south Boston who turned informant to the FBI to take down the Mafia, who were moving onto his territory, the film stars Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard.
So a crime drama based on the life of a real gangster that isn’t directed by Scorcese, interesting, Black Mass tells an interesting and somewhat stunning real life story of Bulger, portrayed eerily by Johnny Depp who gives a fantastic peformance, a lot of the story of course hinges on Bulger and furthermore on Depp in the role who really gives it a go and is convincingly creepy and intimidating. While Depp is supported by a pretty strong cast, Edgerton stands out as John Connolly, a friend to Bulger and FBI agent who was secretly in league with the mob while being on the job.
The story itself is a pretty interesting one, of a notorious mob boss turning informant, it sounds a bit unbelievable and the insight we do get into Bulger in a few scenes peels back elements of his personality, showing his lack of morality and how he feels the need to enact ‘justice’ for perceived offences on himself by others and Bulger, as much of a vile individual he was, does make for an interesting character. And there are some good scenes with other characters, especially Lindsey played by Dakota Johnson, the tension at times is palpable and you can see how scared of Whitey people are.
The plot does fall short of any meaningful impact in its executions, the set up draws you and then we have various conversations with Bulger and his associates, Bulger and Connolly and hits here and there but I felt there was a distinct lack of interesting storytelling. This isn’t really helped by there not really being a ‘good’ moral character to really get behind, seeing the events of the film from their point of view, we know Bulger does what he does and how he gets away with it but that’s kind of it? It’s not a redemption story or a story of how Whitey rose to power, we just see him as an influential figure, going about his way, the who and what regarding Whitey is present but the why isn’t and that would have been a far more interesting thing to explore about the man. I couldn’t really get emotionally engaged in the film because its main character was Bulger ironically and it just never really grabbed my interest despite the some of the characters being somewhat interesting.
That being said, the FBI element in the story is interesting, albeit not fully explored and Billy Bulger – Whiteys brother and state senator, a pretty fascinating dichotomy between the two characters is something not even touched on in the film, seeing some of their childhood or upbringing for example could have been interesting. Black Mass of course has a stellar trans-formative performance in it from Depp for sure but I finished watching the film thinking to myself “So what?”, I didn’t really care for the characters or Whitey, so the plot felt more like a series of events rather than a compelling narrative to me. I just saw the story of a mob boss who did some things and time passed, there are elements here of a great story but it’s not quite put together well enough.
. Depp is great in it
. Plot is dull, slow moving in places, not compelling
. Isn’t really impactful, just scratches the surface of Whitey as a person, his motivations, upbringing