Black Mass follows the true story of Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp), the brother of a state senator (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf. Although the story is about Bulger the majority of the film is told through the FBI, in particular John Connelly (Joel Edgerton) who is heading the case against Bulger’s enemies but soon finds himself working too closely with Bulger and essentially becomes the reason that Bulger got away with so much for many years.
A few friends had seen this film before me and they raved about it – one even claiming they think it could be Johnny Depp’s best film yet! – but as these friends are guys, I was slightly worried that the film wouldn’t be quite as good for girls. Luckily I had nothing to worry about! Black Mass is a brilliant telling of criminal life in the 70s in South Boston. There are plenty of twists and turns as well as murders, drugs, gangsters and loyalties between friends.
Apparently Whitey Bulger is well known over in America but luckily for us Brits the film quickly introduces us to his character and it’s not long before we are swept up into his world. The story is told through Whitey’s employees who are being questioned by the police over their involvement in several of Whitey’s criminal acts. As they tell their side we go back in time to see how Whitey became the godfather of the Irish Mob in South Boston to then losing control and ending up on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.
As well as Whitey’s criminal life we are shown his relationship with his mother and brother Billy – who has gone down a completely different path and is a state Senator. When Whitey’s criminal actions start to catch up with him their relationship is put to the test as Billy’s position means he cannot be seen to be involved with his brother in any way. Johnny Depp is sensational as Whitey Bulger, he really does give a brilliant performance throughout from the vulnerable side to the hardcore criminal mastermind. He is also unrecognisable in the role due to blue contacts, little hair and facial prosthetics. Frankly he looks a little creepy, and nothing like the lovely Johnny Depp we normally see! This takes a little getting used too but it helps make his character totally believable.
The rest of cast is made up of well known names from: Dakota Johnson, Juno Temple, Kevin Bacon and Adam Scott. All of which give really believable performances, Dakota in particular is great as Bulger’s girlfriend and mother of his son. Benedict too is of course his usual excellent self, though his American accent is a little strange to hear!
As a gangster film there is of course plenty of deaths but nothing is shown in an overly gruesome way. It’s all watch-able in other words! It is a little heavy going though, I was struggling a little to keep up with who was who and to keep on top of all the people Bulger had killed for various reasons. It’s not so bad that you lose your interest though, I found that it just made me more determined to concentrate on what was happening!
Overall Black Mass is a brilliant re-telling of Whitey Bulger’s criminal life. It is a film that will leave you talking as it is almost unbelievable how much Whitey managed to get away with thanks to the help of his friend in the FBI. The film ends with text informing us what happened to everyone involved with Whitey – and some of them are quite shocking!