Powerfully suspenseful and driven by remarkable performances, “Black Mass” manages to overcome thematic shortcomings through talented performances.
The film illustrates the rise and fall of Boston’s most notorious criminal, James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) during the 1980s and early 1990s.
After being approached by childhood friend and FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), Bulger decides to take his friend’s advice and become an FBI informant.
In return for protection from the FBI, Bulger would share information on rival organized criminals in Boston, using the FBI to eliminate his competition.
However, as the movie progresses it becomes clear that Bulger’s manipulation of the alliance is putting Connolly in a dangerous position while Whitey reaps all the benefits.
The most powerful force in the movie is the performance quality.
A stacked cast with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Whitey’s brother and Massachusetts senator William Bulger, supported by Adam Scott and Kevin Bacon as FBI agents guaranteed a dramatic movie before shooting even started.
However, their performances are vastly overshadowed by those of Depp and, to a lesser extent, Edgerton. Depp dominates the screen in an intimidating fashion that is beyond compare.
Edgerton also conveys a sense of desperation and fear that is haunting and inspires empathy, despite his corrupt nature.
The movie did come up short in several elements. The pacing was very solid for most of the movie, but the end feels forced and abrupt.
Also, little time is spent explaining the actual history of Whitey Bulger and his infamous Winter Hill Gang.
Also, the movie really does itself a disservice by limiting itself to two hours.
At least another half hour could really have expanded the supporting characters and their motives, and helped to give perspective to the events transpiring on screen.
While it is certainly not the best movie of the year, it showcases some of the best performances, with Depp dominating the considerably talented cast.