Movie Review: ‘Black Mass’

“Depp’s amazing effort places him alongside “Love & Mercy” star Paul Dano (as Beach Boy Brian Wilson) for this year’s early consideration of an Oscar nomination.  Yes, Captain Jack Sparrow from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” collection, is that good as the mob leader.” – REEL BRIEF.com

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A chilling Johnny Depp gives us his most transformative performance to date in this true story about James “Whitey” Bulger’s collaboration with the FBI to root out a common enemy. The three-time Academy Award nominee is intimidating and powerful throughout, effortlessly calling all the shots as the South Boston crime boss. An unrecognizable Depp owns every scene, either with his commanding presence or from being the subject matter discussed by others.

Based upon the 2001 book from Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill titled “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob”, this movie version boils down to two human behaviors—loyalty and trust. Depp’s “Whitey” Bulger mafia character must constantly look up and down each relationship for potential “rats”, weighing whether to do business with a lifelong friend at the FBI, establish turf boundaries with fellow “Southie” criminals in Boston, or even confide with his brother, a state senator for Massachusetts.

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An elaborate plot weighs childhood loyalties against a professional duty to act, requiring patience by viewers for just over 2 hours–as deals are brokered and broken. With years to cover on the big-screen in a modest 122-minutes, “Black Mass” views like watching all six seasons of “The Sopranos” on one highlight reel.

A rich ensemble cast shines exceptionally bright, bringing this 1970s South Boston saga of corruption and racketeering full-circle.  Joel Edgerton, who directed and starred in last month’s “The Gift”, provides the film’s meatiest role opposite Depp–as the FBI’s agent in-charge of investigating his close friend.  Others with fine work in the movie include Benedict Cumberbatch (from last year’s The Imitation Game) and Dakota Johnson (“Fifty Shades of Grey 2015)—both with only paltry supporting roles.

Although the film’s pace is labored at times and no high drama or pulse-racing scenes take place, Depp dramatically rides shotgun to give this historic gang narrative it’s vastly needed direction and fierceness.  Depp’s amazing effort places him alongside Love & Mercy star Paul Dano (as Beach Boy Brian Wilson) for this year’s early consideration of an Oscar nomination.  Yes, Captain Jack Sparrow from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” collection, is that good as the mob leader. Go catch his enthralling act because “if nobody sees it, it didn’t happen” according to James “Whitey” Bulger.  And that would be a shame.

Grade: B

“Black Mass” is rated R for brutal violence, language throughout, some sexual references and brief drug use.  It’s running time is 2 hours and 2 minutes.

© 2015, Patrick. All rights reserved.



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