After watching all three of the trailers for this film, the third one not being an intentional viewing, I was sold. There was no way I wasn't going to watch it. It was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Johnny Depp as a gangster in what appears to be a Scorsese-like crime film? Count me in. I had complete faith in this movie. There was no way it was going to be bad. Absolutely no way. Halfway through watching it, I found myself accepting the realisation that this film wasn't quite as good as I expected it to be. It's by no means a bad movie, but it is what it is.
Black Mass is the true story of James "Whitey" Bulger (Johnny Depp), one of the most notorious gangsters in US history. His brother, Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch), is a senator, and the two of them grew up with a kid named John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who later in life went on to become an FBI agent. Not wanting to arrest the guy he grew up with, John comes up with a plan for Bulger to become an informant for the FBI, helping John to take down bigger criminals, pushing Bulger higher into power. But the FBI suspect that something's up and start investigating, forcing John to bend the law to protect Bulger, who in turn is protecting him.
You've heard it before, but I'll say it again. Johnny Depp soars as Whitey Bulger. His performance is beyond phenomenal, and certainly one that will be remembered years from now. His character is vicious, relentless and, as stated in the movie, won't take no for an answer, and Depp kills it. Very few of his previous performances are able to come close to being as mind blowing as his performance in Black Mass, a film that unfortunately fails to live up to its lead's tremendous performance.
However, Depp isn't the only actor in this movie that gets his chance to shine. Black Mass features the likes of Joel Edgerton, fresh off his excellent flick 'The Gift' earlier this year and he's better than ever, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Corey Stoll, Dakota Johnson, who proves that she can actually act despite starring in 50 Shades of Grey, Jesse Plemons and Peter Sarsgaard. Despite a few dodgy Boston accents, they're all beyond brilliant, yet Depp still manages to out-act them all, so that's saying something about his portrayal of this despicable, yet intriguing character.
Director Scott Cooper, following up 2013's gritty Out of the Furnace, gives it his all with this film. He truly doesn't hold back. It's dark, it's violent, it's entertaining and it succeeds at telling the story it tries to tell, and it looks mighty fine doing so. There's a crispness to everything, and Cooper brings out the best of his entire cast. It looks and feels like a classic gangster movie. The only problem is that the film itself isn't nearly on the same level as something like Goodfellas, but that's a harsh comparison. As a film on its own, Black Mass works really well. It just needed more Matt Damon's being left behind on Mars.
As we further through Bulger's mayhem, something becomes really apparent. This film isn't going anywhere. It's a series of crimes committed by Bulger that all relate to the FBI, and while each of them are entertaining in their own right, the film doesn't flow smoothly. It's repetitive and stretched out, a few of the murder scenes completely unnecessary to the plot at hand, one involving a prostitute in particular. It takes away from the suspense of everything, with the exception of a scene between Depp and Edgerton's character's wife, played by Julianne Nicholson. It's an uncomfortable encounter and it's gripping to watch.
Black Mass is a film that plays everything really safe. In terms of plotting, nothing too shocking happens. Like I said, it's suspenseful and uncomfortable to watch, but there's no shocks. Nothing happens in this movie that would make me scream "THIS IS FUCKING INCREDIBLE" like I wanted to halfway through watching The Martian. It's a fine film in that it doesn't do much wrong. It's your typical gangster movie with some great performances, but that's just not enough for me to tell you to run out and see this movie when it comes out on the 8th. I'm actually really curious to see this movie again because as of right now, I'm sort of in denial about it merely being good, not great.
To sum up, Black Mass is led by some absolutely terrific performances, including a haunting Johnny Depp. Unfortunately, the film doesn't live up to its countless fantastic performances, resulting in a gangster movie that's simply good, but not great.
3 1/2 Stars