Jay here. I’ve been MIA for a while and most likely will be for a bit more. Back surgery and its sidekick morphine have indisposed me for writing movie reviews.
Anyway, Black Mass has been kicking around for a while now, generally disappointing folks despite its all-star cast and generous dash of promise. It basically tells the incredible story of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger (Johnny Depp), and how he ran Boston from the underground for years, in part because of a brilliant “alliance” with the FBI. An old childhood friend (Joel Edgerton) has conveniently made a name for himself at the FBI and he convinces his boss (Kevin Bacon) that Bulger will be a useful informant. The information flows both ways though, with Bulger constantly evading investigation, and Bulger divulging details already known to the FBI by other means.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Bulger’s brother, Billy, a successful state politician. Suspicious? Well nobody at the FBI seems to think so, until there’s a new kid in town, Corey Stoll, who starts asking some incredulous questions, like how on earth has a notorious psychopath and criminal with ties to the IRA never ever been investigated? Why indeed.
So things fall apart for Bulger, although never as spectacularly as they do for everyone around him (including Jesse Plemons, and can we just call him what he is: low-rent Matt Damon), and Rory Cochrane (bloated for this role, it’ll kill your Empire Records fantasies right quick), and Peter Sarsgaard (who once did an SNL skit where he was attending a pirate convention, and all the attendees really relished overpronouncing his name – PetARRRRGGGHHHH SAAAARRRRRRsgAAAAARRRRRRD, and now I am forever doomed to do it myself).
Maybe the biggest problem with this movie is that it crammed too many names under too small a marquee. There just isn’t enough to keep everyone busy, and at the end of the day, this feels like a pretty standard mob movie, with Scorsese wannabe undertones. It fails to distinguish itself. The relief, though, is that Johnny Depp remembers how not to be a cartoon. It’s not any great relief though, since this is Depp’s fourth, FOURTH, time portraying a real-life gangster. Even my dogs have learned the trick by the fourth repetition.
You will not find a bad movie here, just a very tired one, but I guess it allowed a lot of Hollywood types to tick off MOB MOVIE on their SAG Bingo card, and if that’s not a good reason to make a movie, then I don’t know what is.