Black Mass

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Black Mass

Johnny Depp takes on one of his increasingly rare serious roles here as Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger. While seeing him play a light-eyed repeat killer is thrilling – Bulger may have run most of Boston’s organised crime, but this film is only interested in the moments where he murdered people – the meat of this film lies in his relationship with FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton).
Whitey already had a tight-knit relationship with authority – his brother Bill (Benedict Cumberbatch) was a state senator – and while the crime code was death to snitches, Whitey realised that talking to the FBI about his Mafia rivals could work out well. With the FBI sheltering him he soon rose to the top while Connolly became a star, and as for the murders, well, there’s always a downside.
This does a solid job with good material, but it’s a largely traditional gangster epic. The psychological bonds between cop and crook aren’t really explored in depth despite a fun performance from Edgerton as the glad-handing Connolly. In parts that’s because Whitey barely comes off as human here – he’s more a shark in human form, a horror-movie monster stalking the streets – and this only really comes to life when he’s taking it.
Reviewed by Anthony Morris