As per my tradition, I avoided all media on BLACK MASS prior to the screening. I hadn’t watched the trailer or read a synopsis – literally all I knew about the film was that Johnny Depp looked ugly in it. In fact, I was so good at avoiding all BLACK MASS info, I didn’t even realise it was based on a true story ‘til I got there. It’s a fun way of going to the cinema!
BLACK MASS tells the story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator (and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston) who became an FBI informant as a means to take down the mafia invading his turf.
Starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch and Kevin Bacon (just to name a few) it is a cast littered with familiar faces.
One of the main talking points surrounding this film has been Depp’s transformation to look more like Whitey. Interestingly, I couldn’t help but think this was a bit of a waste of time, effort and money: Basically, thanks to all the makeup, false teeth and wigs, he looks like Christopher Walken – why not just cast Walken himself?! Not that I’m complaining – Depp does an excellent job in this film creating a truly scary character….but it is equally scary how much he reminds me of Walken!
Aussie boy Joel Edgerton does us proud as the questionably crooked FBI agent who founded the unholy FBI / Whitey alliance and, ultimately, took it too far. The Boston accent is considered one of the hardest to master believably, but Edgerton does a stellar job – better than Cumberbatch that’s for sure!
It’s an intriguing film, with the motivations of the characters not always clear cut.
Despite major editing (the original cut was close to three hours) there are still a few pace issues; if you’re not caught up in the characters and their moral selectivity, you may find yourself a little bored at times. There’s plenty of suspense on offer, but if you’re looking for action, you won’t find much.
It’s shot well, with some nicely considered composition and the soundtrack is quality.
There’s been some debate about how true the film is to the historical facts. Some members of the Whitey gang have praised Johnny Depp (and the film) for it’s accuracy, while others have slammed it as being full of lies…. So who knows?
All in all, BLACK MASS is a pretty slick film and a credit to the relatively new director Scott Cooper. The cast is strong and visually, it’s a treat. I rate it 7 stars.