By Jeri Jacquin and Jenise Jacquin
This Friday comes the highly anticipated film from director Scott Cooper and Warner Bros. Pictures in the true story of “Black Mass.”
Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) is a criminal in the streets of South Boston in the 70’s. Taking no crap from anyone even after a stint in Alcatraz, Jimmy reestablishes himself and is actually loved by the Irish neighborhood.
The person that doesn’t love his criminal ways is brother Massachusetts Senator Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch) who must look the other way at times if he is to continue with his political career. That comes into question when childhood friend John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), now an FBI agent, is put to task to take down Jimmy.
Instead, Connolly convinces his partner David Harbour (John Morris) and agents Fitzgerald (Adam Scott) and McGuire (Kevin Bacon) that there is something better. He suggests using Jimmy to help nail Mafia boss Jerry Angiulo (Bill Haims) and they all agree.
Connolly now must convince Jimmy that this is the best way to keep the feds off his back. Using his own muscle Weeks (Jesse Plemons) and Flemmi (Rory Cochrane), Jimmy makes sure he can continue his illegal activities without any intrusion.
Everything is working until new box Fred Wyshak (Corey Stoll) takes over Connolly’s section of the FBI. As they begin to examine the time Bulger provided them information, a pattern emerges that is shocking.
Now all bets are off as Jimmy tries to cover his tracks!
Depp as Jimmy is completely, insanely and over the top (in a good way) creepy! There is a scene with Connolly’s wife in her bedroom doorway that gave us the skeevies all the way down our spines. Is this an Oscar worthy performance, we aren’t too sure. Not that Depp doesn’t give it the acting all but the long drawn out telling gets in his way. Personally we think Depp should get an Oscar for just being Depp. The good news is that his attitude and presence as Bulger is the bad guy ladies are drawn to yet scared of at the same time.
Edgerton as Connolly plays the good suave bad guy. He has the remarkable ability to play a bad guy and yet you still feel sorry for him. He has pulled it off before in THE GREAT GATSBY (catching Jenises’ attention immediately) and EXODUS: Gods and Kings drawing us into his vulnerable bad guy side so we give him a pass.
Cochrane as Flemmi is such a dual character. Taking care of business with his fists or a gun seems to come as second nature, yet he also has moments of humanity, if you want to call it that. His face says it all when words aren’t there. Well done absolutely.
Plemons as Weeks puts in a fantastic performance as a young man who clearly wants to be accepted and sees Jimmy as a mentor. This character can definitely take a punch but also has no problem throwing some as well.
Cumberbatch as Billy is a brother who easily looks the other way. He seems to believe his political aspirations keep him out of Jimmy’s loop of crime. This isn’t a huge stretch of a character for Cumberbatch but it works.
Morris as Harbour turns in a torn up agent performance and Bacon comes on strong as Agent McGuire who clearly doesn’t like Connolly but likes Bulger even less. Stoll as Wyshak is immediately unimpressed with Connolly’s sweet talk but instead wants results. You have to love a guy that can’t be bought with measly sports tickets!
Other cast include Dakota Johnson as Lindsey Cyr, Peter Sarsgaard as Brian Halloran, and Julianne Nicholson as Marianne Connolly.
TUBS OF POPCORN: We give “Black Mass” three tubs of popcorn out of five. This is a hard one to talk about since the anticipation has been so high. The story is slow and falls in line with other gangster films so it is understandable that we were hoping for so much more.
What saves the film is Depp and Edgerton giving edgy and sometimes scary performances. Depp with his amazing transformation with eyes so pale that when Bulger is staring without a word, it’s time to run! Depp gives us a sample with what he could look like as an older man and personally, we are okay with it. Edgerton plays both ends against the middle so much so its exhausting keeping up with him.
“Black Mass” is based on the true story of Jimmy ‘Whitey’ Bulger considered one of the most notorious gangsters. Informing or having an “alliance” with the FBI allowed Bulger to literally get away with murder. Once everything was exposed Bulger fled and sixteen years later he was found in Santa Monica, California. Facing racketeering, money laundering, extortion and murder, Bulger was sentenced to two life terms.
In the end – keep your enemies close!