Black Mass: The Story of Whitey Bulger (2015)

Black Mass, directed by Scott Cooper, was released in U.S. theaters on September 18th. The film stars Johnny Depp (Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger), Benedict Cumberbatch (Billy Bulger), Joel Edgerton (John Connolly), and Kevin Bacon (Charles McGuire). With this cast of actors, the movie has to be good! (Well, there have been plenty of films with all-star casts that have turned out to be awful, so…)

Black Mass is a true story about the notorious Whitey Bulger during the 1970s and 1980s. He is the leader of the Irish-American Winter Hill Gang in South Boston. He controls most of the organized crime within this region. Whitey becomes an FBI informant (unbeknownst to his fellow mobsters) in order to take down an Italian mob family within the southern Boston neighborhood. Whitey creates this deal with John Connolly, an FBI agent whom he grew up with. Loyalty, honesty, and trust all are factors within this relationship.

I went and saw Black Mass this past weekend. I LOVED it. There are so many things I liked about the film that it is hard to narrow them down. But I will try. Black Mass was excellent because of the acting, the setting, and script. Maybe those are not the narrow categories I promised, but there really is a lot to talk about.

As mentioned above, this cast was expected to do great things in this movie. Well, they delivered. Johnny Depp was captivating in his role as Whitey Bulger. He completely captured the character and personality of Whitey Bulger. While watching the film, I forgot that it was actually Johnny Depp. He perfectly displayed Whitey Bulger’s tough and relentless attitude. There are some times in the film where Whitey’s softer persona is revealed. Depp is just as convincing in these situations.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Billy Bulger, who is Whitey Bulger’s state senator brother. It is very ironic that a powerful mobster has a brother who is a state senator. But, I guess this relationship could come in handy. Surprisingly, the brothers seem to be close and friendly towards each other. Billy does not get involved with Whitey’s affairs. Benedict Cumberbatch (a British actor if you do not know who he is) does a terrific Boston accent throughout the whole film. Cumberbatch flawlessly presents the good side of the Bulger family. Joel Edgerton portrays John Connolly, the FBI agent who strikes the deal with Whitey. Connolly is a very loyal person who sticks to his roots within the south Boston neighborhood. Edgerton expertly shows the emotional and physiological problems he faces because of his relationship with Whitey Bulger. Kevin Bacon plays the role of Charles McGuire, who is Connolly’s boss. It is obvious that McGuire cannot relate and does not understand the hardships Connolly faces because of the history he has with Whitey Bulger.  Bacon executes this perfectly.

The setting is something that really caught my eye in this film. Black Mass is set in Boston, particularly in South Boston. Almost all of the film was actually filmed in Boston. In fact, according to IMDb, many of the murder scenes were actually shot where the real-life murders took place. This just adds to the suspense and crime-like atmosphere throughout the whole film. All of the 70s- and 80s-styled houses, cars, and clothes make you feel like you went back in time to watch this story play out.

Lastly, the script was very well written. I loved how some light dialogue was added during tense situations. One of my favorite scenes was a dinner scene with Whitey, Connolly, Flemmi (one of Whitey’s buddies), and Morris (one of Connolly’s colleagues). There is obvious anxiety in the air. Whitey asks Morris about the recipe he used for the steaks he cooked. Morris tells him it is a “family secret” but proceeds to reveal the recipe anyways. Whitey then turns mad and exclaims that if Morris so easily tells an important family secret recipe, then he might just as easily tell about the secret of the informant deal between Whitey and the FBI. After this, there is a bit of a pause in the air. Whitey then starts to laugh and says that he was just kidding. Connolly and Morris both share relieved but skeptical facial expressions. It is this kind of levity that makes the screenplay of Black Mass so good.

If you have not gone to see this film yet, I urge you to go see it. Do not wait until it comes out On Demand. Johnny Depp does an outstanding job of portraying the infamous criminal, Whitey Bulger. Depp, plus the long list of other all-stars within the film, only add to the already captivating story.

Rated R for language (a lot) and violence (not as bad as I thought it was going to be).

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