Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Movie with Abe: Black Mass

Black Mass
Directed by Scott Cooper
Released September 18, 2015

The gangster film has a rich history almost from the beginning of popular filmmaking, and it’s still just as prevalent as ever. The focus of any given gangster film can vary, with fictionalized turf wars and personalities often created to heighten drama and present the opportunity to showcase conflict with the police element. There are a few famed gangsters who are more than deserving of cinematic treatment, chief among them the infamous James “Whitey” Bulger, whose influence in South Boston in the 1970s and 1980s was felt in all corners. His story is undeniably interesting, and this film version of his life is definitely worth a watch.

What makes Bulger a particularly fascinating subject is the way that his existence and success ties in so closely with the FBI and its operations at that time. The film introduces John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who grew up with Whitey in Southie and took a different path to become an FBI agent. Connolly, who is still friendly with Bulger’s brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch), a successful state senator, suggests to the infamous mobster that he should serve as an informant of sorts, feeding information about his competitors to help keep Boston relatively clean. That relationship blossoms into something that looks very much like the FBI sheltering and protecting the man who should in fact be the target of their most aggressive investigation.

“Black Mass” unfurls its plot in detail, showcasing the many characters involved in Bulger’s operations and home life, often interspersing brief moments of interviews from Bulger’s imprisoned deputies recalling events that led up to Bulger’s downfall and their incarceration. The story is extremely involving and interesting, and the film plays like a typical gangster thriller, balancing drama and suspense to create an immensely watchable and gripping experience. The film clocks in at just over two hours and could well have gone on longer without losing focus or audience attention.

The acting in “Black Mass” is strong, and the most exceptional portrayal is that of Bulger himself. Johnny Depp, an actor known for taking on challenging roles, plays Bulger like he’s never played anyone before, hidden behind extensive makeup and making this gangster character a unique and intimidating mob boss with a penchant for anger and overreaction. It’s an exceptional turn, and he’s ably supported by a talented cast led by Edgerton and Cumberbatch, with standout supporting turns from David Harbour, Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson, Corey Stoll, Rory Cochrane, Peter Sarsgaard, and Juno Temple. Scott Cooper, whose directorial debut was “Crazy Heart,” does a fine job of retelling history in dramatic fashion with this proper ode to one of Boston’s most notorious criminals.


No comments: