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New Whitey Bulger Biopic Black Mass Kicks Some Serious Cinematic Ass

by Stanton Brasher Posted: 09-15-15 | 2 years ago
black mass whitey bulger

We’ve seen Johnny Depp play an insane, extroverted pirate, an insane, extroverted hat maker, an insane, extroverted candy maker, an insane, extroverted boyfriend, an insane, extroverted filmmaker, and a sweet, introverted boy with scissors for hands; among other things. This weekend, however, we get to see him play an insane, extroverted Irish gangster in Black Mass.

An unholy but also kick ass alliance, mind you.
An unholy but also kick ass alliance, mind you.

Depp plays the legendary gangster, James “Whitey” Bulger who, in the ’70s and ’80s, made an alliance with the FBI to take down the Italian mafia in Boston. You know a turf war is tough shit when you have to bring in the feds to help.

Black Mask begins with Bulger being a modestly successful Irish crime boss for the Winter Hill Gang. After a childhood friend earns his way into the ranks of the FBI, the two strike a deal that serves to sodomize the hell out of his opponents in the Italian mob – figuratively, of course. There was no actual anal penetration in this movie. I checked.

Whitey, smelling hay from the breath of a gift horse, just can’t let a good thing be. Instead of letting the FBI handle his dirty work, he decides to kill every single person that even looks at him funny. This dilemma doesn’t bode well for his buddies in the FBI.

Say what you will about Depp. I saw Mortdecai and it was a perfect recipe for career suicide. The scrutiny was well deserved. However, even in a terrible film like that, Depp goes all in. I have pretty much hated every film he has done since Sweeny Todd, but I never blamed his performance for the shitty films. That’s why, when I saw the trailer for Black Mass, I let out a little school girl squeal — which is kind of awkward because I am a 33-year-old man.

I have been waiting to see Depp use his powers of eccentricity for good and not evil, Disneyfied family films. I wanted to see him play a character that was grounded in reality, much like he did in films like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Ed Wood. Thankfully, I was not let down. His performance is a nuanced kind of creepy, while simultaneously an over-the-top kind of frightening. The fact that he can pull off both in one character is a testament to his talent.

When my old pal, Slim Shady, once asked me if I liked violence, my answer was an emphatic “yes.”  Gangster films, true crime films, action movies, and the like are pretty much my go-to entertainment. In real life, I stay pretty close to the pacifist end of the spectrum, but I love me some exploding heads and walls spattered with corn syrup. On this end, Black Mass delivers all day.

The violence and performance, however, don’t stop the film from feeling a little long. Some scenes drag a bit and I think fifteen minutes could have been shaved off the running time. Still, that complaint is fairly small — especially considering the cast is a ginormous, star-studded affair. Seriously, this supporting cast is all over the place with greatness.

Joel Edgerton plays a great slimeball (who doesn’t think he is a slimeball). Benedict Cumberbatch exchanges his British accent for a Bostonian one. Kevin Bacon makes for a good, uptight FBI commanding officer. Peter Sarsgaard is amazing as the frantic, psychopath. Cory Stoll also makes a great, uptight FBI commanding officer. Jesse Plemons looks like Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg had a red-headed son and then punched him in the face often. I love that guy. His character, Kevin, is probably my favorite from the film.

There were a couple of actors that threw me off, though. First, Adam Scott was in this. Typically, when comedic actors are in serious films, they either take on a meatier role to prove their chops like Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love, or they provide some form of comic relief like Lewis C.K. in American Hustle. Scott did neither. He mainly just hung around with his arms crossed and tried to look tough. It was cute.

The second actor that caught me off guard was Rory Cochrane. For those that don’t know the name, I assure you, you know the face. Cochrane played Slater in Dazed and Confused. If you don’t remember who that guy is, it’d be much cooler if you did. Wink wink.

Overall, Black Mass kicks serious ass. If you like crime films with interesting characters and beautiful bouts of oozing blood, bullets and beatings, check it out this weekend.


  1. Jedi Jantzen

    What a great review, Im look forward to this movie now!


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