In the seventies and eighties, James Whitey Bulger was a ruthless crime figurehead who ruled over ‘Southey’ Boston and more after liaising with the FBI in bringing down the Italian based Mafia north of the city, in which was giving near Carte Blanche status for his own activities. A fairly interesting tale but the main draw to Black Mass is the return of Johnny Depp to drama.
The make-up department have gone to some extreme lengths to transform Depp as to Bulger. Whilst unrecognisable, Depp borders on looking at times as a sub-human but is very much in control of his own performance as he gives one of his best performances in a long time. This aside, the narrative and the performances don’t quite feel well in tune with one another. The film misses somewhat on the coldness and brutality from Whitey’s reign. Joel Edgerton as Whitey’s FBI liaison and confidant feels a notch just over the top, bar a thick Bostonian accent from Benedict Cumberbatch, not much is asked of him. There’s a big cast that also includes, Peter Sarsgaard Kevin Bacon and Adam Scott whereby their presence feels wasted than harnessed. A lot of the better performances or more authentic acting comes from some of the b-cast.
Black Mass is by no means a black mark upon director Scott Cooper’s directing CV that includes Crazy Heart and Out Of The Furnace, but giving the gravitas of the subject and cast, the film feels a bit underwhelming and left me feeling mostly indifferent. Will satisfy most audiences but unlikely to blow anyone away.