Black Mass

Black Mass


The unholy alliance between the FBI and Whitey Bulger.

Johnny Depp leads this true crime drama as Whitey Bulger, the ruthless South Boston criminal who sought to take down an invading Mafia family by becoming an FBI informant. From the director of Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace, co-starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Juno Temple, Dakota Johnson and Joel Edgerton.... More

Jack Nicholson's Frank Costello character in Scorsese's The Departed was loosely based on Bulger, currently in jail for multiple murders.Hide

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Flicks Review

Given the title of the film and tone of the trailer, I was expecting something a bit more sinister from Black Mass, the story of Irish-American mobster Whitey Bulger’s “unholy alliance” with the FBI during the 1970s. Instead, the film ends up feeling like a cover version of previous crime dramas, with only a few moments that truly unsettle.... More

Johnny Depp’s turn as Bulger has been hyped as his return to playing complex adult roles. It’s undoubtedly a fierce performance, but sees Depp continuing his predilection for acting while submerged in prosthetics, including a fake nose, tooth, eyebrows, contact lenses, hairline, and so on. Trying to figure out where his real face begins and the makeup ends can be slightly distracting.

Black Mass seems conflicted at times about what story it’s trying to tell. The strongest hook is Bulger’s partnership with the FBI and, if more focus was put on Joel Edgerton’s compromised agent John Connolly, it might have resulted in a deeper, richer tale. But the film is happy to coast along on moments that will be familiar to most viewers: a Goodfellas-style montage here, a Sopranos-style whacking there, and it all ends up feeling slightly redundant.

The supporting cast is stuffed with wonderful character actors, but it’s Rory Cochrane as a member of Bulger’s gang who leaves the biggest impression, his increasingly droopy face showing the damage all that crime can do to someone’s soul.Hide

The Peoples' Reviews

Some solid acting as to be expected, but with a wealth of good movies in cinemas now, you're better putting your dollar elsewhere. Doesn't really get off the ground.

In my mind Black Mass is kind of similar to American Hustle - it has an element of intrigue and a wonderful cast of talented actors but it's plot is dragged out and weirdly predictable. I think the source material is partly to blame for the pacing and structure as it is based on true events.

Johnny Depp is pretty good in this film, which has become harder to say about his acting in very recent years. I don't know boston accents well enough to criticize any of the actors in the film but it... More kind of reminded me of old English gangster movies rather than their american counterpart.

All in all, a good film but it tends to drag without much pay off for any of the characters - it comes across as more of a dramatized documentary than a big budget movie.Hide

There’s a large shadow looming over every scene of director Scott (‘Out of the Furnace’) Cooper’s ‘Black Mass’, and it belongs to Martin Scorsese. As a gangster movie, it struggles to escape the weight of Scorsese’s classic crime thriller, ‘Goodfellas’, whilst in its lead it never evades the memory of Jack Nicholson in Scorseses’s ‘The Departed’. Nicholson’s character, Frank Costello, was based on real-life Boston gangster, James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, and it’s a... More memory so vivid, of a performance so grandiose, that Depp’s performance never escapes mimicry.

Depp’s not aided by make-up so distracting that it never allows you to forget that this is a Hollywood hunk buried beneath layers of silicone, paint and prosthetics. If you disagree with me about Depp’s performance then I urge you to check out Theron in ‘Monster’ by way of comparison, or Nicholson’s over-the-top pantomiming in ‘The Departed.’ Picture an actor of Michael Keaton’s scene-chewing stature in place of Depp, or the likes of a Pacino in ‘Scarface’, to imagine the unpredictable fear and sudden rage that should be lurking deep within Whitey’s dead eyes. Whereas Charlize Theron in ‘Monster’ was truly transformed, nailing her monstrous character both from without and within, Depp’s caked face seems at odds with his lean, fit frame. It is (for me at least) a display of surface over substance, make-up over method.

The script suffers from the same issues of surface over substance. Lots of cool supporting cast (including Bendybum Cucumbersnatch, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Adam Scott, Dakota Johnson), but all with precious little to do, aside from play second fiddle to Depp’s grandstanding. Only Sarsgaard stands out and truly shines amongst the host of underwritten roles, in which the female characters feel like nothing more than cursory afterthoughts.

As a by the numbers, sub-Scorsese gangster flick it’s okay – but no great shakes. It underwhelms, underperforms and overpromises. It’s not all Depp’s fault. The so-amazing-it-could-only-be-true story of Bulger’s Boston mob and his unholy deal with the FBI could have been a truly stunning movie, but the script manages to miss the mark by a country mile. Still, those seeking a good (not great) gangster flick will not be disappointed, as will those seeking a return to some form of acting (rather than Pirate dress-up) by Depp. Although, like his previous gangster turns in ‘Blow’ and ‘Public Enemies’, the end result is a damp, sub-Scorsese, squib.Hide

With performances like this, I get reminded of Johnny Depp's talent and popularity. His solid performance in this movie shows off his serious side. Which is a relief! As lately, he's been choosing some seriously stupid characters to play. Whhhy!? Too try hard for my liking and definitely not the cool I know possible from this man!
Definitely a watch for those who love a crim-biography type style of movie. I'd put two thumbs up but the other hand is too busy stuffing my face with popcorn.

BY thorinoak superstar

A great performance by Depp - not over the top but restrained and human but again it is a gangster film in the same vein as Legend - merely a acting showcase for the main stars instead of being coupled with a riveting story as well.

Showing 5 of 42 reviews. See all reviews

The Press Reviews

76% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • Depp does career-best work as notorious Boston gangster James 'Whitey' Bulger in Scott Cooper's taut, elegantly understated crime drama. Full Review

  • Depp shines in a solid gangster biopic. Full Review

  • A big, brash, horribly watchable gangster picture taken from an extraordinary true story and conceived on familiar generic lines. Full Review

  • Depp is more engaging than he's been in years, even if his performance can feel a little restricted and one-note. Full Review

  • I'm as susceptible as any other deskbound, conflict-averse fantasist to the visceral appeal of a good gangster movie. But "Black Mass" isn't one. Full Review

  • The steady flow of sour deals, minor slights avenged, and prostitutes that require beating to death begin to wear on one's attention. Full Review

  • A bleak, claustrophobic based-on-fact film that draws us completely into a dark world of crime and complicity. Full Review

The Talk
93 %

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