Black Mass features an outstanding cast and intriguing historical context, but it’s all wrapped up in a by-the-numbers plod through various events in Whitey Bulger’s life. It has its moments, but this is one instance in which too much focus on the facts harms the rest of the movie. It’s like Scott Cooper looked at a timeline and found everything worth acknowledging, but nothing worth delving into. The running time is too short for the amount he tries to cover, and it’s about right for the method he should’ve taken: really diving into one period of Bulger’s life, into one particular aspect of his story.
That aside, there are still some interesting elements of the movie we can appreciate, most notably the relationship between Whitey Bulger and John Connolly. Joel Edgerton does a really great job with conveying the themes of the movie–desperation, loyalty, honor–through his character, and although the nuances of their dynamic are glossed over, it’s still a compelling look at these two individuals. I won’t take the space to list off the rest of the cast here, but just know that it involves a bunch of talented actors doing some great acting and speaking in Boston accents. Also, it’s strange seeing Ben Wyatt here.
Sadly, the extremely talented cast gets a bit thinned out. People like W. Earl Brown and Peter Sarsgaard drop by and are fascinating to watch, but certain characters don’t make much of an impact on the story; they slide in and out of the narrative, and once the plot makes use of them as needed, they seem to disappear. It’s a bit disappointing because there’s so much untapped material that can be explored here, but it’s nevertheless worth watching to see what the actors do with what they’re given.
-The scenes between Marianne–John’s wife–and Whitey are pretty intense. Great acting by both Julianne Nicholson and Depp.
Photo credit: Black Mass, Cross Creek Pictures, Dune Entertainment