You can never really get enough gangster movies and it was always going to be interesting when Johnny Depp ditched that silly pirate crap and got serious with a cold and bloody mob thriller. This movie reminds me that the man is a good actor and although it isn’t particularly special, Black Mass is a good outing that is just about worth watching.
The film follows real life mobster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, a notorious Irish American who did the usual things, you know, making people sleep with the fishes, supplying weapons to the IRA. Torturing people to death in basements who may or may not have ratted he or the IRA out. Elsewhere, Bulger had a buddy. John Connolly was that man and he was a member of the FBI, played here by Joel Edgerton. His superior is at odds with him, agent Charles Maguire, played here by Kevin Bacon.
And so, Bulger leaves streaks of blood all over Boston behind him, patently incriminating himself because you just follow the gore, yet walks freely about the place. Inside the offices of the law, Edgerton pulls incredible gymnastics in logic and excuses to convince his superiors that Whitey Bulger ain’t such a bad guy, much to the chagrin of Bacon, who wants answers and results. This serious writing often dances the thin line between thriller and farce, which may have been picked up on by Bacon and Edgerton especially, who fly close to the border of trolldom.
Out in the real world Depp’s psychopath follows probably one too many seen-it-before tropes. Threatening rivals, giving his cohorts suspicious glares, killing cohorts after giving them suspicious glares and so forth. There is a certain bridge in Boston that every gangster movie or TV show seems to go to when it’s time for someone to be killed and you know, it’s back here – it’s kind of funny how it always shows up. Anyway, Depp can cut a mean figure but the dyed hair and contact lenses make him look more weird than chilling, often distracting and removing character from his performance.
Standard fare gangsterism. Tough guys with crooked accents driving around with dead bodies in the trunk, but don’t expect Scarface.