Film Review: The Story Behind the News: “Black Mass”
I feel a slight amount of trepidation as I write this review. If I say anything bad about the film, will the terrifying Whitey Bulger and his gang of killers come to get me? Seeing how Bulger is currently in prison, I will continue on with my review, unabashed.
This past weekend, I saw “Black Mass,” the film that depicted the story of the real-life James “Whitey” Bulger, one of the most notorious American criminals of all time. Boston was his playground and due to his relationship with the FBI, Bulger “played” with whoever he wanted to. Being a violent and seemingly unstable man, Bulger eventually found his way on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, landing right under Osama Bin Laden. I was in 11th grade when they captured Bulger. I had no clue why the world wanted this old man off of the streets; he seemed harmless and way past his prime. After losing a little bit of my naivety and innocence as well as seeing “Black Mass,” I completely understand why Bulger was deemed such a catch to the FBI.
The film grittily and realistically tells the story of Whitey Bulger that the public already knew. However, the director, Scott Cooper, does so in a way that is continually refreshing and, at times, heartbreaking. The audience sees more of Bulger’s life than was previously well-known. For example, Cooper details how Bulger lost his young son when he was very young. Many claim that this detail can make the audience sympathetic to Bulger and his violent ways, but if his history is searched, it is true that his son died. Cooper is just telling the full story and I believe he keeps in Switzerland’s territory as he does it.
It is not a revelation to say that Johnny Depp is an incredible actor. However, his portrayal of Bulger is his best work to date. That is quite a claim while looking at his past filmography. From Captain Jack Sparrow to Edward Schissorhands to Ed Wood, Depp is known for being an acting chameleon, always disappearing into his role.
Although he was excellent in the majority of his roles, never has the acting chameleon been so invisible. Depp is no more and Bulger emerges in “Black Mass.”
He seems to balance the instability and emotion torrent that Bulger was plagued with and how it affected so many guilty and innocent others. If Depp is not nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award, I will be in total shock. His depiction of Bulger will most likely be his best role of his lifetime.
A variety of supporting actors gave the film more substance, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon and Dakota Johnson. I truly found no negative element in the film.
However, I will say that I never want to see “Black Mass” again; once is enough. It was an incredibly hard film to watch. With that being said, it is also a film that every film geek, history buff, or lover of a good story should watch.