Based on the true story, gangster film Black Mass stars Johnny Depp as notorious criminal Whitey Bulger – the most infamous mob leader of South Boston – who became a police informant throughout the 1970s and 80s in order to take down a rival mafia. The film also sees Australia’s own Joel Edgerton in the role of John Connolly, the police agent who forged this “unholy alliance” between the FBI and Whitey’s gang, as well as a host of other Hollywood heavyweights, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon and Peter Sarsgaard.
Directed by Scott Cooper, this is a violent, gritty, in-depth look at the underground crime scene of Boston, a subject that is by no means for the fainthearted or weak-stomached, but one that is intriguing nonetheless. I’ve never been a big fan of gangster movies and went into Black Mass with matched expectations, but after a slow start, I eventually found myself taken with this almost unbelievable story and the accomplished filmmaking.
At the forefront of this film is Johnny Depp as you’ve never seen him before. With a white-blonde receding hairline and icy blue eyes that stab like knives, you never quite decide whether he looks fake or just genuinely terrifying. Either way, it works well for the clearly sociopathic Bulger, who is definitely one of the more interesting kingpin characters of recent films. His innate ability to control everyone around him is fascinating and Depp does a great job bringing dimension and depth to a character that had the potential to be very one-sided.
Also worth raving about is Joel Edgerton, who is quickly proving he can hold his own amongst the seasoned Hollywood actors, and cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi of Silver Linings Playbook fame. The film is quite beautiful to look at – ironic considering the horrific subject matter. A warning to all those that dislike violence in films – Black Mass is not the movie for you. The barrage of gunfire is constant and shocking; the sound of a shot will startle you out of your seat more than once, and the constant killing does get a little excessive over time. The 122 minute run time also starts to drag and despite the amount of action, the film is surprisingly slow paced. Overall though, Black Mass is definitely one to check out for lovers gangster films.