Acting in Black Mass deserves five stars.
Gangster movies come and go, leaving many to fall out of the limelight fairly quickly. Furthermore, it’s difficult to see the future of Black Mass, director Scott Cooper’s most recent attempt at a Boston-themed crime caper. However, I truly believe that what will make this movie stand amongst other “gangster greats” (if you will) is how it acts stronger as a biopic on one of the most menacing villains in Boston history.
Black Mass follows James “Whitey” Bulger, the leader of South Boston’s Winterhill Gang. Notorious for his ruthless murders (mostly for the sake of his own respect), Bulger was a common household name back during his height in the late 70’s and early 80’s. With his brother, William “Billy” Bulger, being a newly initiated senator, there was no stopping Whitey from getting his way. Nevertheless, when a childhood friend named John Connolly moves back to South Boston to clean up crime for the FBI, Bulger begins work as his informant, leading the Bureau to some of their best mafia takedowns to-date. Thus, when Bulger’s crimes start coming into play and his job is put on the line, Connolly is ultimately forced to choose between his past and present, the strength of a Southie bond or a future with his wife and his high-ranked Bureau position.
What truly sells Black Mass is more than just its technical aspects, meaning that camera shots and editing don’t sell the movie this time. Instead, the two things keeping Cooper’s newest work afloat is its incredible cast and ESPECIALLY its strong story structure. Just ask 19-year-old Montclair native, Michael Langenburger, who is currently studying as a Film Major at Montclair State University. Langenburger felt that “the movie did a good job of portraying a genuinely interesting story. There was nothing spectacular about how the film was put together, but it certainly kept me entertained the whole time. “
In other words, this film works around how Bulger’s story is one of a tragic hero, a deeply flawed character who wants nothing more than the best for his small decrepit hometown. Interestingly enough, he is willing to kill people again and again to keep his vision of Boston in line. In the end, that’s what brings Whitey to rock bottom, eventually leading to his arrest in Santa Monica only several years ago. Nevertheless, the audience is held captive by Bulger throughout his 2 hours of screen-time, making you feel as if you are being enjoyably forced to know every bad decision he’s ever made.
The acting even stands out in Black Mass in such an enormous way. The shock of so many prominent actors was a factor of suspense in itself, bringing about the likes of Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Corey Stoll, and even Kevin Bacon. However, the two actors that stood above the rest were Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton. Depp embodied Bulger with equal minds of sentiment and rage, lead to some dynamic storylines and an even better portrayal of what it takes to be a lowlife Boston gangster. Additionally, Edgerton shines as FBI agent John Connolly, making the audience feel as if they are also taking on his heavy burden of Bulger’s trust issues.
Overall, Black Mass will probably lose its luster sometime in the very near future. Even so, what it brings to the table as far as accurate story and character portrayal, will be the factor that keeps this film around longer than it should be… just like Bulger.
If you wish to check it out for yourself, Black Mass is now playing locally in and around Montclair! Some theaters include AMC Essex Green Cinema 9 in West Orange and even AMC Clifton Commons 16. For show times, a list of even more theaters and ticket purchases, visit fandango.com.