Grim, Depressing, but Well Acted Biography on Bad Guys In Boston

black mass

            Icy Blue eyes stare at you, their cold, blue gaze promising fear and death with every blink. Who or what do these eyes belong too? None other than the notorious criminal Jimmy Whitey Bulger, one of the most notorious crime lords in history. Okay… so maybe it was Johnny Depp playing the mob legend, but regardless of the source, those eyes sum up the tone of the movie Black Mass. This film kind of snuck under the radar for most, but I’m here to help shed some light on what it beholds. Returning after a three-week hiatus, it’s Robbie K with another movie review.

As the title suggests, Black Mass is a tale that is perhaps one of the darkest movies I’ve seen in a long time. The visual portrayal of Bulger’s rise to power is one without filters, where violence, threats, and death rain in high definition splendor. Unlike older mob movies that resulted to gunfights and quick, clean kills, Black Mass gets its hands dirty with detailed torture and gore painting the silver screen a sickly red. Those with weak constitutions will need to avoid this picture, especially during the instances where Whitey results to other means to deal with the “rats” of Boston. I give props to Scott Cooper and his team for unfolding a portion of the mafia world, but like so many took it a little too far than was necessary. How many random characters being shot in the head does one really need to see to get the message?

The major component that I felt was the greatest aspect of this movie was the acting. Once more Johnny Depp has impressed me with his talent, temporarily chucking the whimsical and wacky for the dark and dismal. Depp brings a level of unease and terror I never thought possible in both looks (great makeup) and delivery of his lines. Like many of my fellow reviewers have stated, this could indeed be an Oscar worthy role for Depp and while he was the main pillar of this movie there were other supporting actors who need a little praise.  Joel Edgerton as the corrupt CIA officer packs a pretty mean punch, oozing with festering greed, as he feigns ignorance for Whitey’s services, while trying to cover his hide. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role of a politician to the T, with the confidence, arrogance, and cheesy grin to sell the crowd. The movie could have been even better if Cumberbatch could have been more integrated in the film, but he made the most of his time. And of course Kevin Bacon uses his familiar tactics , which although not impressive, did help tie the story together.

Now what about the story? Whitey’s tale is very detailed, showing the life changing events that shaped him into the threat he became. Even more detailed is the corrupt deals Whitey makes, and the drama that unfolds with each shot. However, despite all the attention to detail, the tale isn’t all that exciting. Black Mass felt more like an upscale documentary, devoid of any movie magic or exciting choreographed scenes. The pace of the movie is slow; at times feeling like it’s going nowhere, primarily due to a lack of suspense. Maybe if there had been a rival in his history, or at least some glimmer of hope it could have had a little more thrill to it. The details also make things a bit convoluted as well and hard to follow until they literally state the purpose a few minutes later. What does this boil down to? A need for editing, to not only assist with the clarity, but also keep the depression to an absolute minimum. However, if you are one for the facts and wish to avoid the fluff that Hollywood thrives on, this movie’s dynamics will more than entertain you.

Black Mass certainly has some of the best mobster betrayal seen for some time, capturing the ruthless nature of the Boston underbelly. However, if you can’t stomach intense violence, and you are looking for some more exciting twists to a film you need to pick another option. This film has a lot of quality to it, but overall it wasn’t the most entertaining or impressive film to grace the silver screen. Being a biography, this movie probably would have been better suited for a TV special on the History channel. My suggestion is to wait for this one to come to Redbox to watch in the comfort of your own home, unless of course you are an avid mob movie fan, or Depp enthusiast.

My scores are:

Biography/Crime/Drama: 8.0

Movie Overall: 6.5

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