“Black Mass,” released September 18, tells the true crime story of notorious gangster, James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp). The movie takes place in the late 1970s in South Boston, where Bulger’s taken to the streets as godfather of the Irish Mob. The plot relies heavily on his relationship with childhood friend and FBI top dog, John Connolly (Joel Edgerton).
Bulger, disguised as an informant, trades insider information with Connolly about Boston’s Italian Mafia in an attempt to bring the group down. In exchange, Connolly secretly funnels federal intel to his criminal friend. For Bulger —it’s about territory — and with the help of the feds, competition would be swept off the streets in the blink of an eye. The deal would grant him immunity from indictment on previous charges, as long as from this point on, he doesn’t kill anyone. However, with a twist of events, Connolly finds himself in a whole mess of Bulger’s troubles. “Black Mass” is chock full of murder, deception, drug dealing and racketeering, ultimately leading up to Bulger’s top two position on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List (behind Osama Bin Laden).
Depp’s performance is comparable to his role in Pirates of the Caribbean: calm, cool and collected, a man of few words. This creates an enormous means for intimidation, a necessary element for his character to bestow upon minions and enemies. One questionable aspect though, is that of his costume and makeup. In attempt to mirror the appearance of Bulger, Depp comes off strikingly ghoulish. If you’re able to peer away from the ice blue contacts, you’ll notice peculiar skin texture and a severe receding hairline. It’s strange seeing him this way, as it’s a dramatic change from his real-life appearance. Nonetheless, Depp’s performance is remarkable. He proves to be the absolute perfect fit for the position.
The true standout actor in “Black Mass” is Joel Edgerton. He flawlessly executes his part, playing both sides of the police line. His reoccurring theme is that of good versus evil. Although his character, FBI agent John Connolly, took an oath to protect and defend his country, blood deems thicker than water. His strong brotherly ties with Bulger sway him to violate his duties as a government official and side with corruption instead.
In watching the film, it’s apparent that each character has the mouth of a sailor. The f-word is used 234 times in 122 minutes according to Wikipedia. That’s almost twice every sixty seconds. Of course, other colorful words are used, too, and it’s funny because in an interview with Kevin Weeks (Bulger’s henchman) he says he’s never heard Bulger swear. In fact, a lot of “Black Mass” is alleged to be fiction.
“With the movie, there’s no accuracy at all,” Weeks told the Daily Beast. “The premise of corruption with the FBI is right, but as far as the events, the people, and the personalities? You could’ve told the truth and the movie would’ve been more violent than it is but they fabricated events. The movie is pure fiction.”
Although the film’s recollection may be fictitious, it worked. If you’re able to catch “Black Mass” while it’s still in theaters, it’s worth the watch. The movie is a fun, yet dark and murderous, thriller. Plot flows wondrously and does an excellent job leading Bulger’s legacy as a power-hungry, Southie mob boss.