Day 356 – Black Mass

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Movie Title: Black Mass

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 2 hr. 3 min.

Rated: R

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

Black Mass is the story of notorious Boston gangster and infamous informant James “Whitey” Bulger. Bulger (Johnny Depp) formed an alliance with FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) that granted him practical immunity in forging and operating a large scale criminal enterprise that dabbled in every imaginable vice. The forging of this alliance and its eventual disintegration is the focal point of the movie. It begins with the taking down of La Cosa Nostra in South Boston, which helped bring Bulger into the good graces of the FBI and proceeds through Bulger’s notorious dealings that compromised the relationship.

One of my concerns going into the movie is that it would glamorize Whitey Bulger the way Henry Hill was glamorized in Goodfellas. Black Mass is so successful at not glamorizing the crime you would assume that everyone living in Boston is in fact practically a mutant. Depp’s performance is masterful. He looks the part, but more importantly he oozes with a sinister malice that at times takes over the screen. During one particular scene at Connolly’s home Depp creates an air of absolute mystery about what his actions will be. He seems perpetually on the edge of violence. Aside from leaving out Bulger’s notorious case of halitosis there are not many flaws with Depp’s portrayal. Many of the other roles play out beautifully. Rory Cochrane is perfect as Stephen Flemmi and David Harbour is fantastic as FBI agent John Morris who was much dirtier in real life than his film portrayal. Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard, Jesse Plemons, and Corey Stoll are perfect in smaller roles.

Some of the other performances are decidedly less even. Joel Edgerton did not feel right for the majority of the movie. Watching him try to act like a gangster or a South Boston tough did not feel right. He couldn’t pull off being brash, but his performance played better down the stretch when his character became more compromised. Similarly, Benedict Cumberbatch did not feel right as Billy Bulger. Unlike Depp, Cumberbatch does not look the part, and I’m not sure how well he played it. It was a decent performance, but he did not seem appropriately cast.

It was also very cool to see the classic cars and how they turned Revere Beach into Miami.

Verdict:

Black Mass portrays Whitey Bulger the way he should be; as a criminal and a snitch. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Equalizer 2 (2018)

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