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BLACK MASS | Movie Review

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Depp needs more gangster offers he can’t refuse!

James “Whitey” Bulger is a name much like any other famous gangster that generates the shakes. From Frank Lucas, to John Gotti, and all the way back to Al Capone, holding his own, Bulger is a man unlike any other thug with so much menacing history, it’s too much to easily comprehend. Making a name for himself by running the mean streets of South Boston, playing his own ghetto games while taking the feds on a joint-like expedition isn’t something many can say they’ve accomplished. As the number two guy (behind Bin-Laden) on the FBI’s most wanted list, he’s one of the nation’s old-school gangsters who flew under-the-radar till his recent arrest in 2011. After a few documentaries, it was inevitable Hollywood would take a shot at a bio-pic.

In the 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) persuades Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) to collaborate with the FBI and eliminate a common enemy: the Italian mob. The drama tells the story of this unholy alliance, which spiraled out of control, allowing Whitey to evade law enforcement, consolidate power, and become one of the most ruthless and powerful gangsters in America’s history.

Explosively ruthless, sarcastically hilarious, entertainingly brutal, and viciously intriguing would be the best way to describe BLACK MASS!

For starters, it’s great to see Depp back doing real acting work. Nothing in the last few years of his career has been this intense since 97’s DONNIE BRASCO. It’s a relief to see him off all sorts of goofy make-up and idiotic accents. Engaging, considering Whitey’s one-note demeanor, there’s lots of depth in Depp! Aggressive, yet charming in some ways, gangster personas is something this man has the ability to own. Coming off like a hybrid between Nicholson and De Niro, Depp’s less-is-more approach as Whitey reaches lots of his objectives, both literally and figuratively.

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It doesn’t end there. Much of his elevated performance is in part due to his great, dark chemistry with Joel Edgerton. Running parallel to Depp, Edgerton deserves some much needed kudos. His character’s sketchy arc displays so much of their connection considering their paths in life. As the film progresses, there’s a sweet blend between old friends as criminal and federal agent lose themselves when balancing off each other’s purposes. In many ways, BLACK MASS could have been laced to follow either story.

Alongside a tremendous cast of supporters which include Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller and Kevin Bacon (to name a few), at a two-hour run, BLACK MASS provides lots to digest. Whether drawn-out scenes that may feel uneven at times, all through harsh, in-your-face murders that’ll make you cringe, this film holds its own with lots of artistic, gritty weight and intensity.

Although cynically captivating, nothing can come close to Bulger’s existence and impact while watching any of his documentaries. Much in the film can be questioned seeing as Hollywood glam steals some of the purposeful, menacing moments that made Bulger who is he is. So, much like 12’s THE ICEMAN to Richard Kuklinski (played by Michael Shannon), take this flick for what it is, but do follow up with authentic reports.

Overall, BLACK MASS will generate a feeling no matter what, just know how long it’ll take to shake it off solely depends on you.


Grade: A / Genre: Gangster, Drama / Rated: R / Run Time: 2:00

Starring: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller

Directed by: Scott Cooper


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