It’s been almost 20 years since the last time Johnny Depp starred in a modern gangster film, the vastly underrated Donnie Brasco. He’s now back playing another true life gangster character, James “Whitey” Bulger, the most violent criminal in South Boston.
Told in a flashback style, the film starts with the integration of Bulger’s crew members. In the 70s, Bulger was just a small time gangster but then rose to the top by becoming an informant to the FBI. We get to see that he has a normal life with a young beautiful wife Lindsey (Dakota Johnson) and a son. His brother Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch) is the state senator, so we know he has a powerful ally.
We’re then introduced to an FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who happens to be a childhood friend of the Bulger brothers. Connolly wants to move up the ranks in the FBI office and one day asked Whitey to help him bring down the Italian mafia. Whitey was hesitant at first; he doesn’t want to be known as a “rat”. Connolly convinced him otherwise and as the story progresses, we get to see how far both of these men will go to get what they want. For fans of gangster genre, there are not many new things that haven’t been told before cinematically.
Depp has been getting lots of good buzz on his performance and I believe he deserves all the praise. At first I thought I was going to see Depp acting like the usual Depp’s character. But to my surprise, he really shines here as the ruthless gangster who has no hesitation to kill anyone who wronged him or come in his way. Bad makeup aside, he really brought a chilling portrayal of a psychopath and made me believe that this was the real Bulger.
The other standout performance belongs to Edgerton, he plays a weasel FBI agent that reminded me of Matt Damon’s character in The Departed. Cumberbatch didn’t really have much to do and his *Boston* accent was kind of distracting a few times. He did have a very good scene with Edgerton though; it’s a scene you’ll have to see to appreciate.
The last film director Scott Cooper made was the uneven and quite frankly, very frustrating Out of the Furnace. Here he kept the pace moving quite nicely; I’m surprised that he was able to keep the film’s runtime in just over 2 hours. He pretty much borrowed every element from other films such as Goodfellas, The Godfather, The Departed and so on. It’s not a knock on him but I wish he came up with his own style to tell this story.
Even though I thought it’s a good film, I can’t say it’s a great one. This kind of story has been told many times before and I think with a more talented director behind the cameras, this could’ve been a great flick. I’d say see it just for Depp’s and Edgerton’s performances, those two really saves the film from being another average gangster thriller.
So have you seen Black Mass? Well, what did you think?
24 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: BLACK MASS (2015)”
Depp did a gangster film in 2009 – Public Enemies which was directed by Michael Mann. Wondering why Mann cast Cumberbatch as a Boston guy. Personally I like Cumberbatch but his name added to the cast should not increase ticket sales appreciably – despite his star power. On the surface this doesn;t seem like his ideal role.
Fine review Ruth – and I’m hoping to catch this one soon.
Yes I know he starred in Public Enemies back in 2009 but I should’ve been clear on my writing, I meant to say he starred in a more “modern” gangster film.
It’s a weird choice to cast Cumberbatch as a native Bostonian since his role could’ve been played by any actor. Also, I thought his Boston accent was a little distracting.
Nicely done Ted. I’ll be honest, I lost interest with Depp round about the time he donned a pirate’s hat but I’ll give him credit here for at least trying something a bit different.
Same here, after all those big budget films, Depp was pretty much on cruise control and didn’t really put any effort into his performances.
Read reviews that were like yours–not a bad film, not a great one. Glad Depp is trying to get back to serious roles. I was hoping this would resurrect his tarnished career. Nice review.
Thanks Cindy, it’s definitely an average gangster film, similar to Denzel’s American Gangster a few years back.
Good to hear some praise for Edgerton 😀 nice post, I’m looking forward to seeing Depp act well again
I was never a fan of Edgerton but he impressed me here. Yeah it’s nice seeing Depp doing some acting again instead of his usual character.
Great review Ted. I’ll rent this for sure, I really like Joel Edgerton, I think he’s one of the best actors of this generation.
Wow really? I was never impressed with Edgerton’s performance but again I’ve only seen him in a few films but he definitely shined in this one and I was impressed.
Kinda liked this, good to see Depp in a serious role, where he is not required to clown around, Must say this is his best performance in recent times. Also Donnie Brasco was not his last gangster flick, there was Blow, where he played a Colombian drug smuggler, a great performance. Edgerton was good too as the FBI agent, and must say the writing was good enough, though had a hangover of other gangster epics.
Well I think in BLOW he as a drug dealer not really a gangster, I think there’s a difference there. 🙂
I thought the writing was okay in this film, but again it’s been there done that so I wasn’t that impressed with it.
Good review! Looking forward to catching this next weekend.
Hope you’ll enjoy it!
Nice dissertation and layout! Good looking film, too.
Was I the only one flashing back to Michael Ironside in his 1980s heyday watching the film’s earlier clips? Depp has his voice, hair and mannerisms down pat!
Very few are better at doing accents than Depp and Cumberbatch. Depending on the amount and execution of on location cinematography. This could be a walkaway film come Oscar time!
Hey Jack, thanks! Ha ha, you know that’s who I thought Depp looked like in this film, Michael Ironside from the 80s! Yeah I think the film will get some love from the Oscar voters.
I’m kind of wary about Depp movies at this point but people seem pretty enthused about him not sucking in this. Good review.
Hey Jay, I felt the same about Depp, he’s on cruise control ever since he became a box office draw from all those Pirates films. But to my surprise, he’s great in this film.
I’m a huge Depp fan, but this movie has failed to catch my interest. It looks just as you said, like an average gangster film. Plus, Johnny’s makeup is soooo badly done that it looks like a cheesy Halloween costume. Johnny really needs to get his groove back
Well if you’re a fan of Depp then you might enjoy this film, mostly for his excellent performance. Yeah the makeup was a bit distracting but as the film gets going, you won’t notice it. Depp got his groove back in this film. 🙂
I also draw a line of Black Mass and the Departed, with FBI-Irish mob intertangled relationship. And I’m glad Depp got the opposite side of Donnie Brasco. It’s a kind of movie I like—when it comes to Hong Kong typical genre of 90s. Glad that Depp finally found his inner side to be emanated again.
First of all thanks for such great movie review. But personally I did not like this movie at all, I watched it on TwoMovies site. Acting was poor but effects are ok. I’m not a big fan of Johnny Depp…
I liked the film a little more, but the whole thing does feel rather plain. Haha, I loved Out of the Furnace!
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