Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Black Mass

   Based on the true story of Boston criminal, James "Whitey" Bulger, this new drama aspires to be in the same league as "Goodfellas" but lacks the energy that director Martin Scorsese infused into that classic. It does, however, star Johnny Depp transformed to look like Bolger but actually looking more like Ray Liotta channeling James Bulger.

      Makeup aside, Mr. Depp does disappear into the role and it's one of the best things he's done in years. Unfortunately his co-star Joel Edgerton steals the movie right out from him as Bulger's childhood friend, John Connolly, now a rising star in the FBI. If we are to believe the script as factual, Connolly managed to make Bulger an FBI informant thereby keeping him safe from prosecution, even while he ran a criminal empire out of South Boston. Connelly uses Bulger for his own ambition but convinces himself it's a just and legitimate cause.

       Benedict Cumberbatch also co-stars  as Billy Bulger, Jimmy's  brother, a politician who became a Massachusetts senator. Mr. Cumberbatch, while a wonderful actor, seems out of place in the role. Other familiar faces in the film are Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Corey Stoll, Dakota Johnson (who disappears halfway through the film), Julianne Nicholson, Adam Scott and Rory Cockrane. Aside from Mr. Cumberbatch, the rest of the cast does an admirable job as the friends and enemies of Mr. Bulger.

          The story is compelling and even though there are many violent scenes, Mr. Depp is magnetic to watch. Director Scott Cooper keeps things moving in a slow and deliberate pace creating a constant state of dread and paranoia. It's a true American crime story of greed and corruption where everyone gets what they deserve.

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