Review: Black Mass
Depp is Black!James 'Whitey' Bulger is a name that I was unfamiliar with and even when I was sitting in the cinema, waiting for the film to begin, Boston's most infamous Irish mob boss was still an unknown quantity. This ignorance in the criminal Kingpin actually worked in my favour, allowing me to sit back and enjoy the film without trying to compare Depp's portrayal of Bulger to the 'Real McCoy'. I made a cautious mental note to allow the film to naturally unfold without immediately coming to the conclusion that 'Black Mass' was no 'Goodfellas' and that Johnny Depp has nothing on Ray Liotta.
'Black Mass' deserves a good write-up because it is simply a good film. Depp's impeccable performance as the psychotic Bulger shows how good this actor can be when given a really meaty character. His scary portrayal drives the movie to heights that it otherwise would not have reached with a lesser craftsman. Johnny Depp may have not looked exactly like the real man and he may well have reminded us all of Liotta in 'Goodfellas' but the way he delivered his character was nothing short of superb. Depp's blue-eyed stare would have been disturbing for anyone on the receiving end and the ruthless nature that he goes about eliminating anyone that crosses him would have the best of us, packing up and flying to a different planet. Depp may fall short of the ultimate gong at award season time but a nomination would not be unjustified.
Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart), hasn't done his Directing any harm with a film that will slot nicely along side other mafia genre theatre. It may not get the same kudos as such films as 'Goodfellas' or 'The Godfather' but it has a sound narrative driven by some outstanding talent. Cooper's main goal was to highlight the ferociousness of one of America's dangerous men and the alliance he had with the FBI. Bulger becomes an informant for the 'Feds' so they can bring down rival mobsters that ruled the city of Boston in the 1970's and 80's. For his informing, Bulger is able to rise up from Boston's 'Southies' Projects and make claim to being the city's number one mobster. Australia's own Joel Edgerton plays a very corrupt Fed, John Connelly, who is able to keep the aggressive Bulger in business. Edgerton is now at the top of his game in Hollywood and doesn't look out of place along side the tremendous Depp. Benedict Cumberbatch brings his star quality to his role as James Bulger's politically aligned brother Billy Bulger and Kevin Bacon has a nice solid role as Charles McGuire, an FBI Taskforce leader who is at loggerheads with Connelly about 'Whitey's' involvement with the law.
Go and see this film for Depp's performance alone. His portrayal is first class all the way down to the idiosyncratic mannerisms. He looks psychotic, sound psychotic and even feels psychotic. Cooper has given him free rein to develop a memorable performance and is backed up with an array of talent that make 'Black Mass' worth the price of admission.