By Lewis Gregory (Merseyside, England)


Black Mass is a gripping crime-drama biopic starring Johnny Depp as Irish-American mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, the most notorious gangster in U.S. history, who was persuaded by his childhood friend and now FBI agent, John Connolly (played by Joel Edgerton) to become an FBI informant since they both need to fight a common enemy: The Angiulo Brothers who were looking to invade Bulger’s territory. However, this relationship between Bulger and the FBI quickly spiralled out of control as murder, extortion and racketeering quickly became prominent and it doesn’t take very long until everything completely collapses.

Firstly, there is a lot to enjoy in this movie, particularly the performances. Depp’s performance as Bulger is an absolute tour-de-force and it is a triumphant return to form from him. He commands every scene that he is in and does a fantastic job of instigating huge tension in every scene, thanks to his character’s unpredictable personality, which keeps you on the edge of your seat. Given that this film inspired Martin Scorsese’s outstanding 2006 gangster thriller The Departed, it is ironic that Depp’s portrayal of Bulger reminded me of Jack Nicholson’s character from that film.


I also really enjoyed the supporting cast in this movie. Joel Edgerton pulls off a great performance as Connolly and other actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch (who plays Bulger’s state senator brother, Billy Bulger) and Kevin Bacon (playing Connolly’s boss, Charles McGuire) also shine in the movie. In addition, the story behind this movie is excellent, intriguing and was executed brilliantly thanks to brilliant direction from Scott Cooper. The duration of the movie (just over two hours) gave enough time for the story to be told perfectly so that it didn’t feel too rushed but at the same time, it didn’t feel overlong.

However, I did have one slight problem with this movie: the pacing. I can’t deny that there were times when I was slightly bored waiting for something big to happen and it did get painfully slow at times. It doesn’t help when you go from feeling completely shocked after someone is unexpectedly executed by Bulger and his gang, right back down to the feeling of boredom and wanting to be excited again.

Nevertheless, these slow scenes were usually saved by the terrific performances from the actors featuring in them and overall, despite the movie’s pacing being slightly questionable, I still felt satisfied with this movie but don’t go to see this film expecting an instant classic. As a fan of Johnny Depp, I welcome this return to form with open arms and I do hope that this film sets him up for an Oscar nomination at this year’s Oscars ceremony.

Overall Rating: 4/5



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