Remember Jack Nicholson’s gangster in The Departed? Well, you’ll be interested to know, that he is sort-of-not-really based on real-life criminal Whitey Bulger. You’ll be equally interested to know, that Bulger was also an FBI informant, who used his lawful connections to eliminate the competition, thus rising to the top of Boston’s crime empire.
Black Mass, the new film by Scott Cooper, tells Bulger’s tale, focusing on the relationship between Bulger and his FBI counterpart John Connolly. They help one another, each corrupted in their own way by this bond.
Cooper has wrangled an all-star cast to flesh out this Boston epic. Kevin Bacon, Joel Edgerton (Oscar hopeful), that girl from 50 Shades of Grey, that guy from Breaking Bad. When Benedict Cumberbatch of all people is the film’s weakest link (still can’t quite do an American accent), you know you’re on to a winner.
Of course, Johnny Depp as Bulger will garner most of the praise. It’s transformation, the prosthetics distracting only up to a point, as Depp immerses himself completely in the role. It’ll remind you that Depp used to be a quality actor, before he became a parody of a parody. Hopefully, Black Mass is a signal that Depp is to follow in the footsteps of Matthew McConaughey and leave the cartoonish past behind. (Nope. Depp’s next two films are Pirates 5 and Alice in Wonderland 2.)
Notice also needs to go to Peter Sarsgard, who kills it in this movie. He’s an actor you think so little about, you probably haven’t noticed that his name is spelled wrong, and is actually Sarsgaard.
Black Mass plays out like a Gene Hackman movie from the 70s, Wwith men with bad hair and good suits taking each other down with intelligence and wit. And, when that doesn’t work, bullets. Lots of bullets.
As it reaches it’s climax, however, it becomes evident that Black Mass doesn’t really have much subtext. It’s not about anything else. Goodfellas is about childhood dreams, The Departed is about identity, Black Mass seems to just be about the facts of the situation. There’s no real emotional pay-off.
But, that said, it certainly is an entertaining two hours, and weirdly leaves you wishing it was even longer. Most films are too long; Black Mass is too short.
Rían probably isn’t qualified to review your black mass, but you can double check with him on Twitter.