Black Mass Review

Preface

  • As a native of the Massachusetts area and a big fan of crime thrillers/dramas, how could I not be psyched for this movie?
  • The first I can cross off my list off Top 10 Most Anticipated for the Fall!

Premise

  • So Black Mass follows Boston gangster Whitey Bulger in the mid-70s, and it chronicles NOT his rise to fame.
  • No, instead this movie focuses on one part of his life, which historical movies have been doing a lot more of lately.
  • This particular movie focuses on the mid-to-late 70s and early 80s where Bulger is working with the FBI to take down the Italian mob.
  • But he’s in the Irish mob, or rather the Winter Hill gang, so he’s doing a lot of organized crime related stuff too.
  • But he’s also working for the FBI so argh… Conflict!

Cast and Characters

  • Now in case you guys didn’t know (though I can’t see how you wouldn’t since I mention it every-other review) I’m actually pretty young.
  • So in my lifetime, I have not yet seen the ‘great actor’ Johnny Depp that so many people rave about.
  • My first introduction to Johnny Depp was Willy Wonka, which was a weird role. Then Jack Sparrow. A weird role. Then that creepy Mad Hatter in the version of Alice in Wonderland that I hate. And I saw Into the Woods and a couple other smaller roles of his, but I was just never a fan. I thought he was lazy in just playing the weirdo every time.
  • This movie man… Johnny Depp is gonna get nominated for Best Lead Actor at the Oscars.
  • This movie in its entirely isn’t GREAT, but Johnny Depp was insane in this movie.
  • Not insane good, just insane.
  • He isn’t Johnny Depp, he IS Whitey Bulger.
  • And as Whitey Bulger, he’s a sick human being. He’s unsettling, he makes people uncomfortable.
  • If you showed me a picture of him in makeup, I would’ve told you it looked too overdone.
  • If you showed me a picture of him in makeup AFTER seeing the movie, I would have shivers. The guy is frightening, especially hearing stories about him locally.
  • Johnny Depp was just absurdly good and blended right into the makeup.
    • There were a few times that the eyes may distract you, because they’re like baby blue, but the psychopathic tendencies of Bulger just drown out the makeup.
  • And I loved seeing Johnny Depp just giving it his all for this movie.
  • Joel Edgerton was in the movie too playing John Connolly, the FBI agent that’s brining Bulger onto the case.
  • A lot of people have been raving about him in this role and though he was good, I don’t know that he should get any kind of awards recognition since some other actors probably could have played the role the same way.
  • That being said, he worked really well in the movie and was a great foil to Bulger.
  • Speaking of great foils to Bulger, Benedict Cumberbatch is in the movie as Whitey’s brother, Massachusetts State Senator Billy Bulger. Yeah, that’s an awkward relationship.
  • The two have really good on-screen chemistry, but Cumberbatch was just a bit off on that accent, man…
  • I said that I thought it sounded a little weird in the trailer (the guy has a very distinctly British voice if that makes sense, it’s hard to hide that), and though the accent was better in the movie than I thought, it still was pretty noticeably not how he talked.
  • If I can say one thing about Black Mass, it’s that the cast is phenomenal.
  • Literally EVERYONE came to play for this movie, even the supporting characters.
  • Kevin Bacon is in the movie for about 10 minutes, but he’s really good. Corey Stoll is GREAT. Joel Edgerton’s wife is GREAT, even this one character’s step-daughter shows up for two scenes and she’s GREAT.
  • Every single actor or actress in the movie comes to play and that effort from the cast makes the movie all the more enjoyable.

Writing

  • The writing is where I had some issues with the movie though.
  • The first half of the movie was really interesting because it showed how Whitey Bulger operated and it built this really connected tone to it, showing how the gang went about their business.
  • It was building up all the characters too and it had this overall feel of cinema to it, where everything played out like a gritty crime drama.
  • The second half though…
  • The second half of the movie played out more like a History Channel documentary.
  • After they jumped from 1975 up to the 80s, that’s when it just didn’t feel AS fresh, just losing a bit of momentum.
  • Like I wished it focused on some aspects more than others (like Bulger and Connolly’s relationships with their wives, those are explored a lot in the first half but almost not at all in the second half).
  • The second half felt like a bit of a drag too, like I even checked my watch once about twenty minutes before it ended.
  • Which is sad, because I know that there were other aspects of this movie that could have been included (Sienna Miller for instance, who was cut literally a week ago) and kept the viewers attention more.
  • When parts like that drag, people just lose interest…
  • The movie does present the whole history very well though. For someone like me, I didn’t know EVERY detail of this operation, so it was cool seeing it presented to me, and I’m sure you guys will like that part of it too.
  • And I will say this: the VERY end of the movie was awesome. No spoilers, but like the tail end was just such a cool thing to see.

Direction

  • The cast was probably the best thing about this movie, but the direction was also GREAT.
  • Scott Cooper is pretty unknown, at least to me, but he was able to create the most crisp and rich shots of such gritty and dirty environments.
  • That was such a cool contrast, and it worked so well for this kind of mob movie.
  • Plus, like I said, being a Boston native, it was really cool seeing the city in 1975, and as time passed more buildings would go up or some things would be modernized.
  • Part of this movie was shot right down the street from my cousins’ house by the way…
  • But every landscape was just covered really well by Cooper, and I think we’re gonna hear a lot more about this guy going forward.

Morals/Themes…?

  • So I’m not gonna spend this time exclusively talking about morals and themes, but just the memorability of a movie.
  • This movie has performances that you will remember for a while.
  • Even some scenes that are REALLY memorable.
  • But the movie has a bit of hollowness to it…
  • Something like The End of the Tour as a recent example: that is a movie that I have thought about every single day since I’ve seen it, and I can always think about something new in it that I hadn’t before.
  • Something like Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation wasn’t all that deep, but it did send me out of the theater with a smile on my face (three times…).
  • But for a movie that has as unsettling of a feeling as Black Mass, you feel like you’re supposed to get more out of it when you leave, though there isn’t much else to get.
  • There aren’t a ton of themes in there, and it is a very fascinating movie, but it doesn’t have a ton of resounding emotion in there.
  • It tells the story really well, and after that it’s done. You know the story after time one, and you don’t really have to see it again after that…
  • I’ll say this though: it is an interesting movie about morality.
  • Like I’m taking a Morality class right now, so maybe it’s just on the mind, but the first half or three quarters especially had these really interesting moral questions about how characters behave and those were really cool to see.

In Conclusion

  • In Conclusion guys, Black Mass is a movie with an electrifying cast and an amazingly sick performance from Johnny Depp that will definitely get some award recognition.
  • The directing was fantastic also. I loved seeing Boston, I loved the contrast between crisp and dirty in each shot.
  • There were some script issues and the movie does feel a bit hollow, but this is a movie that I can totally recommend you check out.
  • I’ll say this: the movie AS A WHOLE isn’t dark and depressing, but Depp’s portrayal of Bulger is what makes you feel unsettled afterwards. There’s some violence in there too, like the third scene of the movie is Depp and Jesse Plemons beating the crap out of some guy in a car.
  • So even though the whole thing isn’t dark and depressing, this isn’t a casual weather movie. If you’re at a party, the sentence, “hey, let’s pop in Black Mass!” will not be heard. If it is, you’re at the wrong party.
  • So even though it isn’t ‘a good time,’ I’ll still give it the rating that Black Mass is a Good Time and Definitely Worth Checking Out.

***

So guys, those are my thoughts on Black Mass! What are your thoughts on this movie if you’ve seen it yet, and what’s your LEAST favorite Johnny Depp weirdo character? Yeah, we’re going negative. Let me know in the comments down below, and as always, thanks for reading guys.

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