By Diego Olivares
“Black Mass” is a raw and engaging true crime film led by powerful performances from all around.
Based off a true story, the film follows the grim world of James “Whitey” Bulger, played with chilling perfection by Johnny Depp.
Bulger was the crime lord of an Irish-American mob based in South Boston during the 1970s and 80s. Bulger would later be one of F.B.I.’s Ten Most Wanted.
The film also centers on F.B.I. Agent John Connolly, played by Joel Edgerton. Connolly also happens to also be a childhood friend of Bulger.
It is through Connolly that Bulger becomes an F.B.I. informant in an attempt to take down a rival mob family. This allows Bulger to further his own criminal empire, which leads to disastrous results.
Director Scott Cooper presents a stylistic vibe different from most gangster films. Cooper chooses to give his film a raw and stripped down feel that fits perfectly with the setting and tone.
Sequences of violence in the film are presented in a realistic manner. This allows those scenes to be both terrifying and unflinching.
Thematically, the film explores concepts of corruption and the darker side of loyalty.
Bulger and Connolly allow their alliance to further their positions in their respective fields. Both men fall into the darker parts of their souls as a result.
Connolly lets the power that he gains from Bulger’s intell internally change him from a federal agent to a common criminal.
Bulger’s ascension from small-time hood to criminal kingpin also affects him negatively. Bulger is presented as a vicious character at the beginning of the film.
His power-climb causes him to develop paranoia and insanity. This results in him committing horrific actions affecting those around him, including members of his gang.
Connolly also allows his friendship with Bulger dictate his own actions. He does this do to a personal loyalty he has for Bulger.
Though it is through this sense of loyalty that Bulger takes advantage of. This is also hinted at with Bulger and his U.S. Senator brother, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Johnny Depp brilliantly gives one of his best performances ever. Depp manages to bring an unnerving menace to Bulger through his portrayal.
Like many of his past performances, he’s completely unrecognizable. His appearance helps add to the eeriness of his character.
With this role, Depp is able to shown to audiences his amazing range as an actor.
Joel Edgerton also delivers an interesting performance as John Connelly. Edgerton manages to begin the film with such a blind naivety that it slowly morphs him to a villian.
The film also sports a strong supporting cast, which includes Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, and Corey Stoll. The supporting characters though are underdeveloped during the picture.
With such strong actors, their characters should have been given more screen time. The film instead chooses to focus mainly on Depp and Edgerton’s characters.
“Black Mass” is an interesting and engaging film that explores a dangerous alliance between criminals and federal agents.
Rated R for brutal violence, language throughout, some sexual references and brief drug use.