I don’t consider myself particularly knowledgeable about Whitey Bulger. The name has come up often enough that I was aware of who he was, but not really the details of his exploits. So when the film Black Mass was first announced I was a bit intrigued. When the cast list was announced, even more so. It features such big names as Johnny Depp, Kevin Bacon, Benedict Cumberbatch and Joel Edgerton, and other up-and-comers like Jesse Plemons and Corey Stoll. When they finally released the trailer, my excitement peaked. Unfortunately, living in Japan, I’d have to wait quite awhile to see the film. This weekend I was lucky enough to have that chance.
I do enjoy true crime films, but quite a few recent hopefuls have left me a bit disappointed, such as Public Enemies or A Most Violent Year. This film is an improvement, and Johnny Depp’s performance is incredible. The film isn’t extremely exciting, but still intriguing enough to keep you entertained. It is based on real events, so the pacing accurately reflects this. The events take place over and extended period of time, and the events are just small bursts of extreme violence and more complicated drama. What carries the film is the potential for violence. Johnny Depp’s White Bulger is intense. Watching him is terrifying, he could explode into violence at any moment. All the characters, even his loved ones seem to be in danger to the viewer. The scene in which one characters wife isn’t feeling well is particularly terrifying. It is by far the creepiest I’ve ever seen Johnny Depp. His performance alone is enough to watch the film. He stands out (as the main character should), but what is most impressive is that all the actors seemed incredibly well cast. Benedict Cumberbatch does a fantastic job with his Boston accent, and Joel Edgerton portrays his characters sleaziness remarkably well. It is a great cast that really makes for a captivating watch.
It isn’t the best crime film but the fact that it is a true story makes it far more interesting. The characters are intriguing and diverse, but most importantly well acted. The film moves at slow but still interesting pace with a few bursts of excitement and violence. White Bulger is far more terrifying than I could have imagined. He is unforgiving, ambitious and absolutely uncrossable; I’m glad we’ve never met. It has some moments of dark humor that lighten the mood a bit, at least early in the film. The characters actions are deplorable, and spoiler alert, there are some bits of justice, though I won’t reveal for which criminal characters. Many people will know a lot about Whitey going in, but if you don’t this works well for a good education. I think it is a must watch this year and I’d put it at a 4 out of 5 stars.