Kyle J. Steenblik

Black Mass Shows Off Tremendous Performances and Compellingly Characters

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4 stars out of 5


black mass


Black Mass
Directed by Scott Cooper
Screenplay by: Jez Butterworth, Mark Mallouk
Based on Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill
Starring: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Corey Stoll, Peter Sarsgaard, Dakota Johnson
Running time 122 minutes
Rated R for brutal violence, language throughout, some sexual references and brief drug use

Black Mass is grueling to watch, populated with contemptible and intimidating characters, a fascinating story, and brutal violence.  The film is solidly paced, and executed with technical precision to produce an uneasy tone that acts as an un-distracting background for serval terrific performances.  On the note of performances, I do need to make mention of the heavy use of accents in this film.  No one, not even natives, sound good with a Bostonian accent.  The accent itself has been lampooned to the extent that even genuine accents sound phony; the result is that I spent the first few minutes trying to rid myself of the mental image of Mayor Quimby whenever anyone spoke.  This was a particularly difficult task with Benedict Cumberbatch, who, delivered a pitch perfect performance, but the accent did not suit him, more on that later.  The charisma on display is the type that brings to mind famous sociopaths and serial killers, or that of brutally loyal soldiers.  The only downright “evil” character in this film is that of James “Whitey” Bulger, brilliantly played by Johnny Depp, everyone else is evil by association.  The performances, especially from Johnny Depp, are extraordinary and skin crawlingly creepy.  It is so macabre as to make it undeniably fascinating to behold.

Based on the book Black Mass by Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr (Marc Carver) and Gerald O’Neill (Richard Donnelly) the film tells the story of James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp).  The film chronicles his rise to power as one of the most dangerous and powerful gangsters in the country, his relationship with his brother, Massachusetts State Senator William “Billy” Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch), and how he became an FBI informant with the help of his childhood friend turned FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton).  In the 1970s with Bulger was just a small time criminal, in South Boston, with little influence outside his neighborhood.  When the Italian mafia begins to encroach on his territory, he accepts the offer from FBI agent John Connolly to turn informant, in exchange for protection for his criminal activities. With the protection of the FBI Bulger’s influence grew, as did the bodies left in his wake.

With chillingly compelling performance from a stellar ensemble cast and unobtrusive direction from Scott Cooper Black Mass is insanely engrossing.  Johnny Depp truly steals the show delivering a performance that cannot be called terrifying enough.  It should serve as a solid reminder that he is a great actor when handed a solid script.

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