Johnny Depp is both charming and terrifying as crime boss Whitey Bulger in this chilling biopic directed by Scott Cooper.
Going into Black Mass, I can’t say I was extremely familiar with who Whitey Bulger was. Sure, I heard the name, I knew he did some messed up stuff, and I remember the news of hearing he was caught a few years ago. Otherwise, that’s as far as my knowledge on the man goes. After watching Black Mass…well I’m glad I knew nothing. Since even though you could find out everything he’s done in any corner of the internet, not knowing what to expect really made my viewing experience of Black Mass as enjoyable as it could have been. That’s not to say for the people who knew of Bulger’s actions that they’ll be in for disappointment, since Black Mass is a treat for anyone who loves film. Scott Cooper has put together his finest film yet while Johnny Depp may have given the best performance of his career. It’s a treat for everyone.
Growing up in South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) grew up idolizing James ‘Whitey’ Bulger (Johnny Depp) just as everyone else did. Whitey was beloved by the people in Southie and to them, he was a God. During the late 1970’s, Whitey Bulger was a small time thug who ran the show in his territory. Bulger’s main issues were with the Italian mafia in which there was a small “war” going on between the two groups. Step in Connolly — the FBI agent looking to make a name for himself by convincing Whitey Bulger to be an FBI informant and to take down the Italians. Connolly’s boss, Charles McGuire (Kevin Bacon), isn’t quite on board at first. But with the recommendation of John Morris (David Harbour), another FBI agent who grew up in Southie, Whitey Bulger was now to be an FBI informant.
Whitey told no one of the truth except for his right hand man, Stephen Flemmi (Rory Cochran), who listened to Whitey’s reasoning behind it before agreeing to join him. Whitey wasn’t planning on doing much for the FBI, but instead was going to use his partnership with the FBI to elevate his status from thug to one of the most notorious crime bosses in history. With Whitey’s younger brother, Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch), being in a position of power as a Senator, it seemed as if nothing could get in the way of Whitey Bulger’s rise to power. Bulger would end up expanding his business to Florida and as time went on, he grew more and more unstable. No one was safe around Whitey Bulger anymore.
There are a lot of things to talk about with Black Mass — the supporting performances, the solid script, the haunting music, the story as a whole — but none of that compares to the exceptional performance of Johnny Depp. Depp completely immerses himself into the role of Whitey Bulger to the point where it’s tough to tell who you’re watching on screen. Johnny Depp has had himself one amazing career, but playing Whitey Bulger is his most impressive performance to date. Seeing Johnny Depp perform in a role that’s non-Burtonesque…well it’s a breath of fresh air. But I can’t just talk about Johnny Depp who stole the show, credit has to be given to Joel Edgerton for how perfectly he played John Connolly. For as much as this is a mob film, Edgerton is able to portray Connolly in such a way that makes Black Mass feel like a tragedy.
There may be a lot of movies that have yet to come out this year but I feel confident in saying that I really don’t believe any film as a whole can match the performances given in Black Mass. Maybe an individual performance here and there will give Depp a run for his money, but the cast of Black Mass is truly exceptional in every way and I don’t see any other movie coming close. Before Black Mass, Scott Cooper had himself an okay resume. Crazy Heart was a great movie that won a couple of Oscars while Into The Furnace wasn’t bad but it never quite reached its potential. Black Mass is one of the best films of 2015 and will find itself in Oscar talks as the year goes on.
Black Mass is directed by Scott Cooper, written by Jez Butterworth and Mark Mallouk, and stars Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Corey Stoll, Peter Sarsgaard, and Dakota Johnson. Black Mass will be in theaters September 18, 2015.