Black Mass (8/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 122 minutes.
Not for children.
Whitey: U.S. v. James J. Bulger (2014) told the story
of Whitey Bulger but mainly concentrated on the corruption of the police
and FBI and how they were complicit in his crimes. One never got the
true feeling of who Whitey Bulger was.
This movie, with Johnny Depp playing Whitey, tells two stories. It shows
the FBI’s corruption in the names of FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel
Edgerton in another compelling performance) and FBI Agent John Morris
(David Harbor). But more important it shows what a true psychopath Bulger
was, as Depp portrays him as charming when he wants to be but as deadly
as a viper with friends and foes alike, delighting in killing people
himself with his bare hands.
Extremely well directed by Scott Cooper from a script by Mark Malouk and
Jez Butterworth, and based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill,
this is a captivating tale of evil. Adding to the verisimilitude, the
film was shot on location where it occurred, in the Southie neighborhood
of Boston. Even the interiors were shot in Boston.
But what carries the movie is the frightening depiction of Bulger by
Depp as the cruel, coldblooded killer Bulger was. The scene between
Bulger and Connolly’s wife, Marianne (Julianne Nicholson), is as
disturbing as any of the scenes in Silence of the Lambs between
Anthony Hopkins and Jody Foster. It should live in memory at least as
long as the scene in The Public Enemy (1931), when Jimmy
Cagney pushed a grapefruit in Mae Clarke’s face. This scene is a lot
more terrifying. Nicholson deserves an Oscar® nomination for this scene
alone. It goes without saying that Depp will be on the front line for
the Oscar® for his performance.
While I think that Edgerton should get multiple nominations for his work
on The Gift, his performance here is equally Oscar®-quality.
There aren’t any laughs in this film, but this is a film well worth
seeing. For those who live on the west side of Los Angeles, it’s also a
little disconcerting to realize that this guy was living in a condo
hiding in plain sight in Santa Monica for eleven years before he was
captured in 2011. We all probably passed him on the street or saw him at
Ralphs shopping for ice cream and didn’t realize what we were standing next to.