‘Black Mass’ Review: Johnny Depp Nails it as Boston Gangster
The film chronicles the true life story of James “Whitey” Bulger based on the book by ‘Boston Globe’ reporters.
The first thing that hits us about Scott Cooper’s Black Mass is the ‘F-word’. Not a stray reference once in a while, but a blizzard — an incessant shower of F-words that sucks us into the cold, grey mafia world of the 70s. It’s a place where bullets and the F-word ricochet around in an uncanny rhythm and it’s on this carpet of blood, filth and expletives that the film stands.
Now I may not be permitted to pen down the said cuss word here but what I can do is use an F-word of my choice and that is – Fantastic. A word I reserve for the show that Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch and Joel Edgerton put up. In fact everyone from Dakota Johnson in a bit role, to Julianne Nicholson as the disapproving wife, Peter Sargaard as a gang associate, to Corey Stoll playing a no nonsense FBI boss, ensure that Black Mass is worth our while.
The film sets out to chronicle the true life story of James “Whitey” Bulger based on the book by Boston Globe reporters. Bulger ruled the Boston underworld and his menacing motives are brilliantly translated on-screen by none other than our beloved ‘Jack Sparrow’. With his receding hairline, crooked teeth, deep set eyes and an ashen face, he not only looks his part but grips us with his spectre-like presence. The scene at the dining table when he goes after David Harbour and when he decides to have a little tete-a-tete with Julianne Nicholson is bone chilling stuff! From a small time thug, Bulger’s journey to the top is facilitated by FBI agent John Connolly. Joel Edgerton has a difficult role to negotiate but he is magnificent as he tries to strike a balance between his childhood loyalties and professional ambitions. Benedict Cumberbatch as Bulger’s brother is good as usual; there is just so much that he could do with a badly written character.
This brings me to the flaws in the script. Yes the performances dazzle us, but not enough to blind us to some rather gaping holes in the narrative. Unanswered questions gnaw us throughout this two-hour long saga and writers Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth never give us any insight into the inner workings of a character. How is it that despite being a street kid himself Billy Bulger turns out to be so different from his own brother? What really motivates Whitey Bulger? We could even argue that there is little that is innovative in the story telling. The film starts with the police interrogating one of Bulger’s henchmen and we all know how the story would unfold.
But despite these loopholes, Black Mass packs a hefty punch. Watch it for the sheer brilliance of Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton and you won’t regret it. I’ll go with 3.5 out of 5 QUINTS.
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