Under normal circumstances, I write movie reviews for my column Now Geek This! on the We Be Geeks website. However, since Black Mass might not be considered a geek movie necessarily, but is certainly an important movie from a New Englander perspective, I decided to use this blog as the vehicle for my review. James “Whitey” Bulger is a very important historical figure for those of us who live in Massachusetts, perhaps the greatest mobster in our history, and as a result, Black Mass may be a more important movie for our area than other parts of the country.
Black Mass was directed by Scott Cooper, and is based on the book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. The movie stars Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger, along with Joel Edgerton as John Conolly, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Billy Bulger. Black Mass is the true story of the most infamous crime boss in the history of South Boston, and how he became an informant for the FBI that led to his rise in power.
The story of Black Mass is both gripping and chilling as it shows us the rise of Whitey Bulger from small time thug to the crime lord of Boston hiding behind his connection to childhood friend and FBI agent John Connoly as he rose to power. Johnny Depp is excellent as Bulger, which is no surprise considering what and excellent actor he is, and was highly successful transforming himself into the criminal. Depp’s portrayal of Bulger perfectly captured Whitey’s cold, calculating demeanor without glorifying him as you might see in a typical ‘gangster’ movie, and I was completely pulled in by his performance. One thing that is important to a film based in Boston is the accent, which so often comes off as cartoonish, and Depp nailed the accent perfectly as well.
Learning the details of how Whitey rose to power was absolutely fascinating, and the movie told the story very well. I only have a couple of things to nitpick about the movie, and those were minor things that did not detract from my enjoyment of the film at all. One of those things that I did notice is that the film is very slow paced. Black Mass is a two hour movie, and it definitely feels like it is. Of course, a story like this needs to take its time being told, and so I was not bothered by the slow pace of the film overall, but I could see it bothering some movie-goers. The only other thing that bothered me, and this is strictly on a personal level, is the fact that the movie didn’t really cover any of the time after Whitey Bulger went on the run other than a brief mention at the end. Personally, I would have liked to learn a bit more about his time on the run, and how he was actually captured as well. I can understand the decision not delve into this mysterious part of Bulger’s life, but I am curious to learn more about what it must have been like.
If you are from Massachusetts, and Boston in particular, then you are no doubt familiar with the story of Whitey Bulger on a historical level. Black Mass gives you a glimpse into the actual life and mindset of Bulger, and sheds an entirely new light on the story of the man who had become the number two man on the FBI most wanted list. Many of us have memories of Whitey Bulger in one way or another, and it is fascinating to have the opportunity to learn more about the man who was only legend to most of us. However, even if you are not from the area, I think you can find this movie interesting as a biopic based on one of the most infamous crime boss’ in recent history.
Black Mass is an excellent movie with an intriguing story and an amazing cast. If you have any interest at all in Whitey Bulger, or crime in general, then I highly recommend you check out this film, it is definitely worth watching.