In Scott Cooper’s Black Mass, Johnny Depp brings to life the brutal, vicious character of crime lord James ‘Whitey’ Bulger with a crazed intensity that will both hypnotise and shock audiences at the same time. Here’s three reasons to watch this epic crime film:
3. American crime history on screen
Director Scott Cooper channels a dark chapter in the history of Boston in Black Mass as he brings the partnership between gang lord ‘Whitey’ Bulger and corrupt FBI agent John Connelly to the big screen. While audiences have become accustomed to the glamour of the mob life through film, and cinema, Cooper eschews all of this and instead presents his story as a dark trip into the heart of an American nightmare. From the start, Cooper portrays Bulger as an opportunist thug who decides to play up a deal between himself and Connolly for his own advantage. This, mixed with the film’s dramatic tone and Cooper’s shooting style, never gives the audience time to anticipate what is coming next in this harrowing but powerful tale that will grip them like a vice.
2. The Unholy Trinity
Running through Black Mass is a very central theme on Irish catholic faith, and the idea of an unholy trinity placed around ‘Whitey’ Bulger, his brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch), and their childhood friend John Connolly (Joel Edgerton). While ‘Whitey’ may be the black sheep of the Bulger family, his brother Billy is a state senator, and the most powerful man in Boston who chooses not to see, nor be involved with his brothers darker side. Like Depp, Cumberbatch completely immerses himself into the charismatic persona of Billy Bulger who, with his Irish-American twang, stance and pose, is suggestive of other great Irish-American politicians and men of power like John F. Kennedy. But while Billy’s first priority is to serve the people of Boston, he has no problem flaunting his authority over those who are beneath him. Joel Edgerton, on the other hand, portrays FBI Agent John Connolly as an ambitious career climber who is desperate to make a name for himself, and sees ‘Whitey’ Bulger as a way to help him do it. While he may start off as idealistic, his dark pact with the devil soon leads him down a sinister road, and he becomes gripped by arrogance, even playing up his relationship to Bulger as a badge of honour. The trio of Depp, Cumberbatch, and Edgerton play off of each other perfectly, and all three men find themselves falling into a very dark abyss as the film continues, with none of them getting out unscathed.
1. Johnny Depp is James ‘Whitey’ Bulger
In a completely uncompromising portrayal, Johnny Depp channels the mobster willpower of Boston’s infamous crime overlord in a performance that is guaranteed to send chills down the spines of audiences. With the menace of a rabid dog, Depp portrays Bulger as a vicious beast of a man who, while seen by many in Southie as an Irish-American Robin Hood, is in reality a psychotic criminal willing to do anything and everything to control the crime of South Boston. With brilliant make-up and a spot on Boston accent, Depp projects a scary presence as the calculating criminal who is more than happy to execute a minion for the slightest of infractions, before burying them in his own personal graveyard. There’s a definite creep factor at play as well, especially when Depp interacts with the women in his life, particularly John Connelly’s wife Marianne (Julianne Nicholson), that will leave audiences feeling repulsed and shivering in their seats. But while he may be innately scary, Depp’s performance is one to be marveled at, and audiences will find themselves fascinated by this enigmatic criminal.
Image source: Roadshow Films.