The biographical mafia drama Black Mass tells the story of the American Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger. In South Boston a battle rages between two rival mafia gangs, whereof Whitey is the leader of one gang. FBI agent John Connolly asks his former childhood friend for help, so he can take down the other mafia gang. Initially, it doesn’t matter to Connolly and the other members of the FBI that James Whitey Bulger is this friend, and therefore will serve as an informant. For Whitey it makes it easier to carry out his criminal business, without the FBI minding his business. Does John Connolly succeed in following the law, or does he remain loyal to his criminal friend Bulger?
Black Mass is directed by Scott Cooper, who is not a big name in Hollywood. His most familiar work is crime drama Out of the Furnace, a film which is also partly written by Cooper. Black Mass is based on the novel “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob” from 2001, which is written by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. Jez Butterworth also worked on the film’s screenplay, a man who’s known from the latest James Bond film, SPECTRE, and the action film Edge of Tomorrow. The cast of the film also consists of some big names. De most popular one is Johnny Depp, who plays the lead character gangster James Whitey Bulger. He definitely looks the part, his total appearance and behavior is fascinating. There’s not a single moment you see Depp’s other famously played character: Jack Sparrow.
Other big names are Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch and Kevin Bacon, whereof Edgerton’s part is one of the big roles. And there also comes a critical note. Cumberbatch plays Whitey’s big brother, a political figure called Billy Bulger. His part is very small and therefore you don’t get a good impression of his character nor learns how he thinks of his criminal brother. Bacon plays an FBI agent who is also supervisor of Edgerton’s character. But also Bacon’s character is too often kept in the background. The role of Corey Stoll as Fred Wysak, the new public prosecutor, does give the film an interesting twist. Wysak is the man who wants to take down Whitey and his criminal friends and doesn’t agree with the freedom Whitey is given since he is used as an informant. But it’s clear the lead characters are played by Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton.
As James Whitey Bulger Depp shows where he is good at. After multiple caricature roles, such as Jack Sparrow, this part is definitely a refreshing one. Joel Edgerton also did a great job as the FBI agent who loses himself in the world of the mafia when he teams up with his old friend from the neighbourhood. Despite their acting skills, the film never really makes you sit on the edge of your seat. Also because the supporting roles are too small and too flat. The film is decent but it doesn’t draw you into the story. It even be a bit boring, especially the first half hour. There is no sign of any action and the strongest scene was already featured in the trailer. There are some gruesome scenes, but even those are not memorable enough.
Mafia film Black Mass feels similar to The Godfather, but is not that strong nor impressive. The big names of the film can not take the film to a higher level. The performances, in particular of the two main actors Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton, are of a terrific level. The film is unfortunately not memorable enough and there are moments you lose interest. It is very refreshing though to see Depp again as a gangster, like many years ago when we saw him as Donnie in Donnie Brasco