WRITTEN BY: Mark Mallouk, Jez Butterworth
DIRECTED BY: Scott Cooper
STARRING: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch
RATING: 4 stars
James "Whitey" Bulger (Johnny Depp) is an infamous and violent crook living in South Boston, while his brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a state senator trying to keep his hands clean. Their childhood friend John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) now works for the FBI and is tasked with taking down the Italian Mafia in the area. So, John contacts his old friend and Whitey soon becomes an informant, leaving him free to commit any crimes he wants as long as he does not murder anyone.
This is an extraordinary true story, which only wrapped up a few years ago, making it even more shocking and relevant. Some might compare Black Mass to the likes of Goodfellas or The Godfather, but it reminded me more of Donnie Brasco. The way in which Whitey was able to manipulate everyone around him is fascinating and surprising.
Depp makes a return to form with this role, portraying both the terrifyingly sinister and creepy parts of Whitey's personality and his humanity in his love for his son and mother. Edgerton is an equally powerful force as John starts to blur the line between detective and felon. The pair play off each other so well. Cumberbatch is also compelling to watch and the supporting cast boasts accomplished actors including Kevin Bacon and Adam Scott as John's concerned colleagues, and Corey Stall as the lawyer determined to bring Whitey to justice. Dakota Johnson also has a small but pivotal role as the mother of Whitey's child, but it is a shame her character disappears suddenly without any real explanation. Unfortunately, Julianne Nicholson is not given enough to do as John's wife. She is a potentially interesting character but ends up being a pitiful damsel in distress despite Nicholson doing her best with the material.
The film is about two hours long but it never gets boring. The gruesome violence is spread throughout and even when you can see a death coming you are never quite prepared for how it all happens. The story of Black Mass is riveting and it is great to have a film that depicts the tale well.