Black Mass Reviews
Scott Cooper's Black Mass (2015) is a gripping crime drama that uses stunning cinematography and creative direction to startle the viewer with sudden kills and vicious intimidation. Cooper reveals FBI corruption and mobster organization down the grunts. Black Mass is particularly interesting for demonstrating issues on both sides of the law. I really enjoyed the informative recreations of Whitey Bulger's crimes, while portraying the people shown as real and flawed.
Johnny Depp is fascinating as the quiet killer mastermind Whitey Bulger. He captures the devoted twisted father and the adoring devastated son as well as the vicious and manipulative observer. Bulger's willingness to openly trick his associates and lie to their faces is horrifying. He could kill anyone at anytime and Black Mass portrays this perfectly.
Joel Edgerton is sublime as the sleazy FBI agent John Connelly. His corruption is evident from his actions, but Edgerton goes further and condemns the man for his lies and covering up Bulger's crimes. He completely engages you as he spews off spin and rhetoric to talk away Bulger's murders.
Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent as the silent brother and Senate presence William Bulger. His understated support for Bulger is interesting. Cumberbatch plays it cool and calculated against Depp and Edgerton.
Dakota Johnson is gripping emotionally as Bulger's girlfriend Lindsey Cyr. Her pleas for her son and for any humanity or decency from Bulger are amazing. I think Black Mass contains some of Johnson's best work as an actress.
Jesse Plemons is gruff and eager to please as Bulger's henchman Kevin Weeks. Rory Cochrane as Stephen Flemmi is somber and quiet, but always a frightening presence. His character arc keeps getting darker as Black Mass goes on with his depravity.
As for the rest of Black Mass' formidable cast, I think they served their purpose, but do not stand out as much as the aforementioned. Julianne Nicholson, Adam Scott, David Harbour, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, and Juno Temple all have their moments, but get outshined by Depp.
I do think that Black Mass' 2 hour running time feels longer as the pace is glacial, but does give you time to think about each character as they appear. Black Mass is a slow burn for me, but could come across as dull for other audience members.
Overall, Johnny Depp's intense performance of steely nature with his cool blue contact eyes make for a compelling display. Depp alongside Cooper's riveting direction and thoughtful depictions make Black Mass elevated from a solid biopic and crime movie to a great film!
Weaknesses: Joel Edgerton (John Connolly) is usually very good in nearly every role he takes on. Unfortunately, this is a rare miss. He's very forgettable, just like the character he's playing. Benedict Cumberbatch (William Bulger) tries and does okay, but his Boston accent is pretty rough. The script doesn't feel like it knows what to do with the characters involved or how to tell the story properly. It's as if the writers saw snippets of what made similar crime movies work and they didn't pay enough attention on how to structure it. It's also hard to fully set up proper character arcs when telling a true story, but here, nobody really grows or learns anything. Even the eventual hero in the story, Carey Stoll's Fred Wyshak, doesn't show up until late enough to feel like a hero.
Overall: Considering the performance of Johnny Depp and the premise behind the movie, I'd have to consider this a big disappointment. The script fails them, as do the performances of some of the supporting cast.
There is enough darkness in the lead character to give you goosebumps as you cringe yourself on the seat and luckily Johnny justifies it as he empowers each and every actor and character in this throwback of 70-80's old gangsta drama.