When Scott Cooper’s Black Mass was released in cinemas towards the end of last year, there were high hopes from many moviegoers. A crime thriller that looked to offer Johnny Depp at his very finest, some were hoping for something to rival classics such as Goodfellas, Casino or The Departed. The question is, though, did we get what we were hoping for? Let’s find out.
Plot-wise, Black mass is the based-on-real-events tale of Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger (the aforementioned Depp), one of the most infamous and deadly criminals in Boston history. Here we pick up the story of Whitey Bulger as he’s at a point in his life where he’s a truly feared figure amongst the shady criminal landscape that he inhabits, yet the twist here is that he’s also pulling double-duty as an FBI informant in order to tackle the growing threat of the Italian mob that’s turned up on his turf. Muddying the waters even further is the presence of John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), an FBI agent who is also a lifelong best friend of Whitey’s and who regularly fights his corner when some of his colleagues waver on whether or not to bring Bulger in for his multiple heinous acts. Then there’s Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch), a state senator who’s one of the most powerful men in Boston and also the brother of Whitey. Quite the messy situation, no?
Things only get more convoluted as Connolly’s higher-ups start to question his bias towards such a notorious criminal, and it’s the relationship between these two that holds the film together. In Connolly, you’ve got a well-meaning sort who is almost blinded by his loyalty to his childhood friend, yet questions come up as to whether or not Whitey is merely using his longstanding pal to take the heat off of his illegal shenanigans. What plays out is a story that is a dramatic and is it is engaging, full of bloodshed, bonds, and questionable loyalties.
Is Black Mass quite as stunning as we were hoping? Quite frankly, no, it’s not, but it is still a highly enjoyable movie that has two breathtaking performances at its core. Obviously, a lot of the attention and praise for the film centres on Depp’s portrayal of Whitey Bulger – this is a near-unrecognisable Depp that makes you realise that he is still one of the greatest actors on the planet when given the chance to be more than just that same, quirky Tim Burton-ised Johnny Depp that has been a far too frequent presence over the past decade or more – but Joel Edgerton’s turn as John Connolly is arguably even more impressive than his co-star’s. The defiance and unwavering loyalty of Connolly is expertly delivered by Edgerton in a career-best performance.
Stylishly put together and anchored by two mesmerising performances, Black Mass is a movie most definitely worth hunting down, and this release is further complimented by some great bonus features, particularly a featurette looking at the real life Whitey Bulger, giving an insight into this nefarious yet fascinating figure.
Special Features: Three featurettes
BLACK MASS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: SCOTT COOPER / SCREENPLAY: MARK MALLOUK, JEZ BUTTERWORTH / STARRING: JOHNNY DEPP, JOEL EDGERTON, BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, DAKOTA JOHNSON, KEVIN BACON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW