Black Mass

RATED - (R) -122-MIN-2015


                                   It’s the abridged version of Bulger, but Black Mass is still worth attending.

If you are looking to for an accurate, and detailed depiction of the infamous Boston crime lord and thug: James (Whitey) Bulger, may I suggest you pick up the excellent book by Boston Globe reporters: Dick Lehr, and Gerard O’Neill on Amazon .It is a riveting, and meticulous account of Bugler’s reign of terror in Boston proper.

The film (Black Mass) based on that book, is however a very fine crime film adaptation, with a chilling interpretation of Bulger by (Johnny Depp). With his steel blue vampire like eyes, low grumble of a voice, and his predator like stance just off the center of events, Depp holds court over this Hollywood version of events that took place. I say this all the time, but I am sure that there was an even better version of it before it had to get chopped down for a theater release. I sure hope for some kind of director’s cut when this comes out on Blue ray, because, as I am from Boston, and know the history well, much has been left out to move this story along.

I will say, that director: (Scott Cooper) who made the underrated (Out of the Furnace) has done a fine job of capturing the feel, time, and overall mood of Boston and it’s neighborhoods. Most people nationally, have a basic understanding of who this guy was, and what exactly he did.

Black Mass, jumps right in as we see the story of Bugler’s rise, through interviews with his former goons and muscle, who are now being interviewed by the FBI, in a huge investigation, that implicates not only Bulger and his crew, but also the quick to rise to the top FBI agent, and boyhood friend of Bulger: John Connolly (a very good Joel Edgerton).

Bulger and his men are small time from Southie and work for the Winter Hill gang of Somerville, but they are looking to expand, and they are fearless. They are pissed at the mafia, led by the big and powerful Angiulos family. They treat Bulger and his crew like they are nothing. Bulger hates the Angiulos and will do anything to hurt them. If he could just get them out of the way, things would be very good. The FBI also wants the Boston Mafia bad.

So back to the area, comes Connolly and his wife : Marianne ( Julianne Nicholson), who is looking to make a name for himself at the local FBI office, in his old stomping ground. He first approaches Bugler’s brother Billy ( Benedict Cumberbatch), who is a state senator and rising in power in the legislator, about seeing if Jimmy would be willing to help him nail the mafia. Copper and the filmmakers are very sketchy and vague with Billy’s involvement.He is a bit of an enigma: loyal to a fault, but seemingly on the straight path, not willing to let what his brother do affect his political aspirations. Like Whitey says at one point in the film to his young son who ends up dying tragically: “if you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.”

So Connolly sets up a one on one with his childhood protector and hero,and lets him know, if they form this alliance, and he gets information for him and the FBI to nail the mob, Connolly and the agency will look the other way, unless it involves murder. This is the truly unholy setup of what actually did happen. They basically gave this psychopath and his thugs, free reign to do whatever, for small bits of Intel on the Boston Mob. Since Bulger wanted the Mob out, so he could rise, it was a win, win, for him, and thus the infamous reign of terror by Whitey and his gang began in Boston.

Cooper’s film does a great job of depicting this corruption in the agency with Edgerton’s Connolly basically telling his boss at the FBI Charles Maguire ( Kevin Bacon) that Bulger will get him the wiretap they need, at the Angiulo’s secret North End headquarters. When the mob, does go down on the sting, Connolly is a local hero, Bulger has him by the balls, along with the FBI, and the carnage ensues.

I liked a lot about his film, and it certainly has a haunting atmosphere; and as the bodies add up, and all hands involved, have blood that wont wash away, things get very grim. Depp in some ways underplays Bulger, which makes it even more scary. He doesn’t go all kabuki like Nicholson did in the truly entertaining (The Departed).This is more serious, as it should be. The standouts, by a long shot, are Depp, Edgerton, and Nicholson, as they are the best fleshed out performances. They are in full color, while the others, are in black and white, in the background, on purpose. That is my one major gripe with the film. Some of the major players in this tale: Kevin Weeks (Jesse Plemons), Steve Flemmi (Rory Cochrane), and John Matorano (W.Earl Brown) are not really expanded upon, and they spend a lot of time standing around not saying much.Having said that, Black Mass is a fine piece of filmmaking, with some fabulous performances, that you should see.

watch the trailer: