Gangster movies are something of a Hollywood sure fire hit, well not necessarily a hit but studios know people will go and see them, mainly for the plain and simple fact that true stories can be some pretty compelling lore. Not only that but a crime story is something nearly everyone wants to see especially since the viewer never actually experiences the darkness in the films nor do they probably want to. Black Mass tells the story of James “Whitey” Bulger and his informant stint with the FBI from 1975 all the way up until 1995. The film chronicles the deceit and lies associated with Bulger as well as the crimes committed by him and his crew a.k.a The Winterhill Gang. So how does Black Mass live up to the star powers it possesses?
Well for a film of this caliber and the star power, yeah it’s incredibly mediocre, mainly from a story standpoint. The film really doesn’t have a main character or a true plot to follow, more so of an outline. The film opens up with one of Bulger’s now ex-colleague talking about how he was brought into the business and what he endured. That alone would have made for a compelling plot by having Bulger as a supporting character and not trying to glamorize such a prick. Director Scott Cooper seems way more interested in having random violent scenes and pointless conversations, especially on scenes that have little to no weight to the already thin plot.
The film really could have benefitted from being the story of Bulger’s take down of the Italian mob (only briefly touched upon) or the corruption of Agent John Connolly played by Joel Edgerton. Had the film been about Agent Connolly’s descent into darkness and his corrupt turn, it would have been gripping and a psychological examination as well. However, sadly the film falls incredibly flat in which a 10 part miniseries would have served the material perfectly and fleshed out every inch of the story too. It just really feels like a showcase for Depp’s talent not a movie about Bulger’s endeavors, plus it moves way too slow for something with such a big time gap for the plot (20 years).
Of all the negatives the film has to offer the silver lining to the piece is the performances, bar none some of the best of this year so far. Specifically to Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, and of course Johnny Depp. There wasn’t a single bad performance honestly and everybody in the film really pulled off the accents and the mood the film was going for, as well as the internal battles many of the characters faced themselves. But the man of the hour is Depp himself and boy does this guy deserve some recognition, his role made one feel incredibly uncomfortable and scared all wrapped into one solid package with some prosthetics and blue contacts, a serious tour de force performance and a career highlight. If only the character had a solid plot.
Black Mass is now in theaters!