Very interesting film. This is the story of James “Whitey” Bulger and much of it is compelling stuff. First of all, it’s nice to see Johnny Depp doing some serious acting and he’s excellent in this. There were several scenes with just dialogue that were amazingly intense thanks to Depp’s performance. Some of the best work I’ve seen him do in years.
Second, what a surprise Joel Edgerton was in this. He was horrible in Exodus: Gods & Kings last year and I didn’t expect much but wow, he nearly stole every scene he was in, crafted a compelling character that seemed to be as much a lead as Depp, and was utterly believable with both his character and his Boston accent. Third, the true story is absolutely crazy (you can’t make this stuff up) and goes a long way to keeping the viewer glued to the twists and turns. Curiously, Benedict Cumberpatch isn’t that great here. His Boston accent is terrible. His character doesn’t have much to do of interest (he’s the younger Senator brother of Whitey Bulger) and much of his acting falls kind of flat. He’s usually great but I just don’t think the part was right for him this time around. The rest of the cast does excellent work though and made each scene worth watching.
One distracting thing was the makeup in some places. The contacts Depp wore were distracting as was some of his makeup. There were also a few whigs that looked really bad. But the costumes & art direction were fabulous, making up a lot for the few weird makeup issues. Didn’t kill the film but I can’t help thinking it would have been better if some of the makeup and whigs had been toned down.
I still have no idea why the film is called Black Mass but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It’s worth seeing just for Depp and Edgerton’s performances alone but there’s a lot more here to like. If you’re into true crime stories and mob movies, this is one of the best this year.