Black Mass (2015) – Film Review

Well Made Crime Drama


Black Mass is directed by Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace (2013)) and features the work of one of the writers of the upcoming Bond movie, Spectre (2015), Jez Butterworth.  The film tells the real-life story of how small-time Boston criminal James ‘Whitey’ Bulger (Johnny Depp) rose to dominate the City’s black economy and start to spread his tenticles into other States as well.  It is also a movie about police corruption and the relationship he strikes up with old friend and now FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton).  The story begins in 1975 and runs for more than decade as we try to get to grips with his character and motivation and how he spirals out of control.

The first question I suspect you want to ask is, is Johnny Depp any good in this movie.  Drum roll ………. yes he is!  This is proper acting with just enough make up to reflect the age of his character.  I’m not going to say he’s outstanding but for the first time in a long time I wasn’t thinking that’s Depp in a silly wig isn’t it.  He delivers a believable Boston accent and there are a couple of intense scenes where he oozes danger.  He is backed up by a strong cast that, along with those already mentioned, includes Benedict Cumberbatch as his brother; Dakota Johnson as a love interest; Kevin Bacon as Connolly’s boss; and Corey Stall as an ambitious Attorney General.  This guarantees a quality product and there isn’t a single weak link among them.  Cooper delivers an evenly paced film that just as it starts to feel a little long picks up again as Bulger and Connolly must finally deal with the consequences of their actions.

Where Black Mass fails to excel is that while it is an interesting story it’s not exceptional nor does it offer a different take on the genre.  For me there are a few gaps in the story as well.  We get very little about Bulger’s early life and following a tragic incident with his son the mother of the child (Johnson) disappears from the film just as you’re expecting eruptions in their relationship.  I’m repeating myself a little as I have already mentioned that the film does start to wander and I would like to have seen about ten minutes shaved off.  It’s a silly think but I don’t thing anyone is buying Cumberbatch’s accent for a minute. In the grand scheme of things these are minor gripes but they bothered me none the less.

Overall, I would recommend this film but be aware it is quite violent (one scene involving a noose in particular) and there is plenty of cussing so sensitive ears beware.  It’s strength is its cast and solid direction although a deeper examination of Bulger’s character may have delivered greater rewards.  My rating is a strong 3/5.


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