Movie Review: Black Mass (2015)

Posted: August 13, 2016 in Action, Drama
Tags: , ,

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James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) was a small-time hood in South Boston mostly involved in selling drugs.   He then made a deal with FBI agent John Connelly. (Joel Edgerton)  Bulger agrees to snitch on the Angiulo crime family, in return Connelly gives him immunity from prosecution, but he asks Bulger not to kill anyone. Of course Bulger violates that agreement many times over, and that makes FBI agent Charles McGuire (Kevin Bacon) angry and frustrated.  Just as McGuire is ready to end the immunity agreement, Bulger discloses the whereabouts of Angiulo’s hideout, which takes the heat off Bulger, and gives Connelly a nice promotion.  But as Bulger expands his operations to jai-alai, and running guns to the IRA, more and more Bulger informants wind up dead, and new prosecutor Fred Wyshek (Cory Stoll asks Connelly why Bulger has never been prosecuted for any of his crimes, and Connelly doesn’t have a good answer to that question.  Do the Feds finally capture Bulger?  Do they convict Connelly for aiding and abetting Bulger’s crime spree?

Black Mass tries to be an epic crime story, like the Godfather or Goodfellas, but it just isn’t that big a story.  The corruption and collusion of the FBI is the story here, but since Depp is the star, and he is playing Bulger, the story has to focus on Bulger.  The story is further diluted by time spent on Bulger’s wife, and the death of Bulger’s son, as well as the misdeeds of members of Bulger’s crime family.

There are some good performances, but Depp’s is not one of them.  He hides behind globs of makeup and adopts a Jack Nicholson type persona for Bulger, except Nicholson was much better in The Departed. Depp has one really effective scene in the film and not much else. Joel Edgerton doesn’t do well in a pivotal role as corrupt FBI agent John Connelly, he adopts a bad Boston accent and doesn’t do much else.  Benedict Cumberbatch, who I like as an actor, really butchers a Boston accent, and tries to hide his British accent, it doesn’t work.  Kevin Bacon delivers a great performance, as the FBI agent asking all the right questions but getting stonewalled.  He’s the only actor who doesn’t try a bad Boston accent. Corey Stoll is also good as the prosecutor who tries to end the FBI corruption, and his Boston accent is more subtle than the rest.

Director Scott Copper has an inconsistent record of directing.  I liked Out of the Furnace, but Cooper does not do anything nearly as visual in this movie. I didn’t like Crazy Heart, Cooper’s other major film.  Cooper’s pacing in this movie is slow, and he doesn’t get good performances from the main actors in the film.

Black Mass:  Pray you don’t have to sit through it.

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