Black Mass – The Depp-arted

Black Mass tells the true story of the rise and fall of Whitey Bulger, one of the most infamous criminals in the history of Boston, who became a FBI Informant to help take down the Mafia dominating the town he grew up in.  That description almost sounds like he’s a bit of a saviour, he definitely isn’t.

Making up Time

Johnny Depp has spent most of his career sitting in make-up departments transforming into all kinds of characters, with varying degrees of success. I have grown a little tired of the crazy performances, and have been hoping he makes a movie that tones down the eccentricity and shows us just how good he can be with a dramatic and heavy character. Black Mass is the movie I have been waiting for.

Depp is still under a layer or three of make-up, but this character is so far from the Mad Hatter and Jack Sparrow it is hard to believe this is the same actor. He plays Whitey Bulger, and brings us a character that is horrifying and scary to watch, at the same time keeping you begging for more. You always feel like anyone around him is one wrong move away from lighting his short fuse. Depp hasn’t been this good for a long time.

Joel Edgerton is the other standout performance as John Connolly, the FBI agent with questionable morals, who makes the deal with Whitey Bulger. Benedict Cumberbatch is solid as you would expect as whitey’s Senator brother, and both he and Joel Edgerton nail the Boston accents. David Harbour is gives a really good performance as Edgerton’s FBI partner, who clearly isn’t as comfortable with the deal with Whitey as his partner.

Kevin Bacon pops up as well, and once I got past expecting him to break out into an EE advert, he plays his role well. There isn’t really anyone in the movie that doesn’t give a good if not great performance.

Long Story Short

Whilst Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton are great to watch, the plot of the film is pretty basic and there aren’t many twists and turns along the way to keep us hooked in the story. The film was missing a character to play the protagonist to Depps antagonist. Corey Stoll does come in to fill that role partially, but he is underused here and despite the good scenes with him in it, the film could’ve done with more of the character to get us really hooked in the chase.

I will very rarely say a film needed to be longer, but I can’t help but feel this movie could’ve been something incredibly special with a little more time spent on the fall of Whitey Bulger than we got here. I don’t think it needed to go full Godfather on us and go past the 3 hour mark, but another half hour on the 2 hour runtime would’ve given us time to enjoy the fall from grace which ended up being rushed through in the final act.

Final Thoughts

Black Mass is worth seeing just to experience the performances given in the movie, particularly from Johnny Depp. I would be very surprised if he isn’t nominated for this. It’s a great film and tells its story well enough, but falls short of being the classic it might’ve been.

7.5/10 – Depp back to his best. Overall movie not up to that level.


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