By Aaron Stiles
James “Whitey” Bulger was one of America’s most terrifying and notorious criminals. His crimes ranged from extortion to murder with many others in between. Whitey committed crimes for many years without interference from law enforcement due to bribery, as well as the fact that his brother, William Michael “Billy” Bulger, served as president of the Massachusetts senate.
Black Mass follows Whitey through different phases in his criminal career. The film was directed by Scott Cooper and written for the screen by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth, and is based on the 2001 book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob.
The film’s tone is somber throughout, with many darkly lit scenes and long, steady shots. Dialogue is rare, with action progressing most of the scenes, which makes it interesting, but what sets this film apart from your typical crime-thriller are the performances.
The entire cast does brilliant jobs, but the juggernaut in this film is Johnny Depp as Whitey. His performance as the mobster is more chilling than a winter wind, his voice deep and at such a low volume that if I hadn’t been in the theater, I would have had to read his lips to understand what he was saying. The low volume of his voice makes him even more unsettling.
His bright blue eyes seem to give them a demonic shimmer. His attire and hair are the perfect dash of creepy. Watching him intimidate, torture, and kill people makes for some stomach-churning, shocking moments.
Scott Cooper’s directing is something to be admired, and this film was extremely well done. It follows many conventions of the crime thriller genre, but should gain notoriety for its originality and the excitement the actors will incite, mainly Johnny Depp.
Black Mass grabs your attention and holds it through tense dialogue, shootouts, and Johnny Depp’s hellish gaze. The other actors’ performances in the film are well done, but definitely outshined by Depp. Joel Edgerton did a great job as John Connolly and Benedict Cumberbatch also gave a really good performance as Billy Bulger.
Black Mass does what it sets out to do—provide audiences with an enormous amount of entertainment.