After a series of box office disappointments, Johnny Depp returns with his finest performance of his career in Black Mass, the story of the rise and fall of Whitey Bulger, Boston’s most notorious gangster. Based on the 2001 book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill and directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart), this period crime drama is captivating in it’s ruthless storytelling, which grabs you from the very beginning and pulls you closer with each passing scene. Oscar needs to stand up and take notice because Black Mass is the first real contender for this year’s award season.
James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) is a recently released convict and the leader of The Winter Hill Gang and one of the most respect men in South Boston. John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) is an FBI agent who’s recently returned to Boston to head a task force to rid the city of the Italian mob. James and John grew up on the streets of South Boston together and Connelly knows the influence of Bulger. Knowing that the best way to infiltrate organized crime is from the inside, Connelly, along with Whitey’s brother, Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch), a state senator and Boston public figure, strike a deal with Whitey to trade secrets and take down Boston’s Italian Mafia, a deal that would catapult Whitey from small time crime boss to the king of Boston.
Director Scott Cooper, working from a script by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth (Edge of Tomorrow), tells Bulger and Connelly’s story over a series of decades which culminates in Bulger making the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. Each act of the story perfectly illustrates the challenges each character involved in this unholy alliance face leading to life altering situations and decisions that no one can turn back from. Cooper is gifted with an amazing cast lead by the memorizing Depp who turns in an Oscar winning performance. Depp, who is barely recognizable as the godfather of the Irish Mob, is relentless in his commitment to the character and his portrayal is both haunting and meticulous in his execution.
Joel Edgerton embodies the invincibility and arrogance of his character with ease and turns in the performance of a lifetime. Benedict Cumberbatch is limited in his screen time, but he makes the most of every scene by portraying the confidence and calmness of an American politician and brother of a notorious gangster. My one wish for this film would have been for a bit more interaction between Depp and Cumberbatch as both actors were ripe for some great scenes. The rest of the cast, which includes Rory Cochrane, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, and David Harbour, were outstanding in this supporting roles.
Overall, Black Mass is a fantastic crime drama with plenty of drama and wonderful performances and one that demands to be seen. Don’t miss this film.
4 out of 5
After Credit Scene?