Black Mass: Film Review

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I had been raring to see this for ages because it looked set to be Johnny Depp’s best performance in years and he is bloody amazing. He is virtually unrecognisable and absolutely terrifying. This is a total must-see for his performance alone.

The movie starts in 1975 with mobster James “Whitey” Bulger running organised crimes in South Boston with a gang of ‘trusted’ lackeys. His former childhood neighbour John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) returns to the area as a FBI agent tasked with taking down an Italian mafia crew in North Boston, so he asks Bulger to became an informant. This forms almost 20-year alliance between the two, in which Bulger’s crimes escalate but he is protected due to their pact, and even when FBI bosses try to nail him down, Connolly gives the crime lord tip offs and helps cover up his crimes. It all comes crashing down in 1994 with an expose in the Boston Globe.

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I did not know anything about this story and it is extraordinary and fascinating. I love a good true crime tale. While Whitey is an interesting character, I was most intrigued by Connolly, who is so devious and morally corrupt while desperately pretending not to be. With Whitey, his cold-heartedness is plain to see, with Connolly I was astounded time and time again how low he would go to protect the mobster, simply because of childhood loyalty. It is nuts and I can’t believe it’s true! The scenes in the FBI headquarters where he is trying to justify Bulger’s actions and keep the alliance going made me so mad. It is so unbelievable I couldn’t help but laugh! I also love the scenes where Connolly brings Bulger to his house, and definitely crosses a line that cannot be reversed. The effect this change has on his wife Marianne (Julianne Nicholson) was very powerful.

Johnny is ever the master of disguise and he looks so different – piercing blue eyes, terrible teeth, aging skin and a seriously balding head. I didn’t think I would get used to it but you do. This is honestly one of his best performances in recent years. I feel like I can take him seriously as an actor again. He can be sweet and nice in one moment and completely switch into a murderous bastard the next. He really is truly terrifying, and we get to see him pop off quite a few people!

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Benedict Cumberbatch (as Bulger’s politician brother Billy) did not convince with the Boston accent so I really didn’t believe his character. I thought Jesse Plemons was awesome as one of the lackeys, and I would have liked to see him more. Dakota Johnson, Juno Temple and Peter Sarsgaard also stood out for me although their roles are very small. Kevin Bacon, Corey Stoll and Adam Scott round out the FBI contingent.

It does take its time to get going and the pacing is very slow in the first half, but once we get into the second half and people are being popped off left, right and centre, and Connolly struggles to justify why the FBI are still treating Bulger with impunity, it really ramps up. It became exciting, because you don’t know who will be killed next, who can be trusted and how the FBI will eventually take Bulger and Connolly down. What an incredible true story.

In cinemas 25th November 

 

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