If you’re as sick of watching Johnny Depp play eccentric, weirdly dressed characters, or dudes in guyliner as I am, then Black Mass will be a welcome respite for you. This movie sees Depp go back to his roots, as one of the best method actors around.
The premise is based on the real life drama that saw one of the biggest criminals in history, Whitey Bulger, become an FBI informant. It focuses on FBI Special Agent (Joel Edgerton), a man who actually knew and admired Bulger when he was growing up in South Boston. Of course, Connelly went the other way with his career and eventually tried to turn Bulger (Johnny Depp) into a FBI informant. Of course, this informant deal is a bit well…unethical. In this case, Bulger won’t inform on any of his Irish mob buddies. Instead, he’ll be ratting on the Patriarca crime family. It isn’t long before Bulger uses the opportunity to get the FBI to take out the competition for him, with bloody and catastrophic results.
The acting in this was extremely well done. Depp is barely recognizable as the balding, paunchy Bulger and Edgerton stand out as an agent whose own moral compass becomes increasingly skewed. Ironically, Edgerton actually reminded me a bit of when Depp played Donnie Brasco.
I liked that they stuck to accuracy in the Whitey Bulger story. Much of what was presented is widely believed to actually have happened, though there are a few disputes from some of the key players, for obvious reasons. They had to mess with the timeline a bit to make it work, but in reality, I liked that they tried to go with the story and not embellish a story that was pretty good on its face.
On the flip, I think they tried a bit too hard to make Bulger likeable. In one scene, that I highly doubt ever happen, Bulger stops to help some old lady with her groceries, because deep down, he’s just a gentlemanly south Boston boy. Oh, please…I think enough court records and information exists to make it pretty darn believable that if Bulger did ever help a woman with her groceries, it was for the purpose of stealing them. Why does every gangster movie need to focus on the goal of turning said gangster into Robin Hood?
The sad fact is, sometimes, people are just sociopathic monsters. Bulger falls far more on that side than he does of a saintly robin hood. I can accept the fact that he wasn’t a saint. I don’t need to sympathize with him to understand him. In fact, I don’t want to. I have no desire to join any kind of criminal fraternity. If I need moral ambiguity, I’ll get it from Connolly, the truly sympathetic character in this film.
But that slim complaint aside, I will say this is an enjoyable, well written piece that returned Depp to his element of playing complex characters. I had my doubts about him playing Whitey, but he pulled it off. That alone makes this movie worth the watch.
WE GIVE IT: 4.5 STARS!
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