Black Mass (2015)
Dir: Scott Cooper
Slightly off topic, (mainly because there aren’t enough horror movies around to warrant an hour of thought), I’ve opted for Johnny Depp horrifying us all with his rotton front tooth and deeply dehydrated skin.
Theres been more gangster biopics lately then we’ve had in a while. After Legend I think we were all ready for a further exploration into the criminal mind, Depp hasn’t done anything that hasn’t involved LSD or chocolate since Donnie Brasco, so many have really been looking forward to it.
The film tells the tale of one of the FBIs most wanted men, the infamous Whitey Bulger leader of Boston Mob “the winter hill” gang. The almost unrecognisable Depp plays a chilling Bulger and really gets into his role. Lots of killing, teaching people lessons, burying bodies under bridges, highly loaded yet ambiguous gangster threats (please refer to scene at the dinner table, which has forever changed my opinion on soy sauce and garlic powder), the usual. Apparently the purpose of the film was to chronicle the rise of Whitey Bulger and his relationship with the FBI. Sadly what we were presented with (sorry Guardian film page) was a flimsy script, and a disjointed picture of how and why Bulger goes from small time criminal to FBIs most wanted.
We see so much of Bulger being a total douche, without really understanding what actually makes this guy tick, that this lack of context ends up creating a widening bridge between him and the viewer as we can never truly immerse ourselves in his world. Allegedly the real Whitey Bulger also didnt care, so much so that he refused to cooperate with Depp et al regarding characterisation; this was highly apparent in the end product.
So much revolved Bulger’s relationship with FBI agent Johnny Connelly, that it almost felt like “Stand by Me”. This relationship alone should have been the focus of the film, rather than trying to cram in 30 years of activity. No other characters really mattered, it starts with a promising intro and then solely becomes about Bulger and Connelly, and essentially how obsessed Connelly was in pleasing him. Everything and everyone else just felt like they were there for decoration.
Why even BOTHER with any female characters? They literally serve no purpose to the plot, literally zero. Bulger’s wife? Pointless fifteen minutes of airtime. Why cast such a great actress if you’re just going to give her a one minute scene in a hospital and never explain where she went afterwards?
In fact where do any of the women go? Are there any women in Boston in the 1970s? What the hell happened to Connelly’s wife? Did she get over Bulger’s psycho medical speech in her house? Did she buy another pair of satin flares? Does she leave Boston? I really would’ve liked a resolve to that situation.
Essentially my primary beef with this film is the utter disinterest in developing any of the other characters. Take Benedict Cumberpatch for example (I wish this was the start of a sherlock joke), he played a powerful political figure, whose brother was a mob kingpin, THAT SHIT IS INTERESTING GODDAMIT!! Couldn’t we perhaps have a bit more development there? So there was absolutely no issues with the fact that this was a real situation? It was skimmed over at best, which was super infuriating and yet again a reflection of a poor script. Soz.
Having no emotional involvement with anyone in the film whatsoever does also make a film feel considerably longer than it should. Just a casual FYI.
Johnny Depp, aside from looking tired, doesn’t do enough with the complexity of Bulger’s character to make me care. His mannerisms, fucked vibe in general, yes. Why this guy is so fucked up? no idea. Take Ray Liotta and his portrayal of Henry Hill; he brings me in, involves me in his world, and therefore I get him, appreciating his intentions and actually feeling bad for him when things start to unravel in his life.
This guy Bulger…don’t get it, I don’t understand why that whole bit with his wife and kid was put in, I don’t get how and why he got into organised crime, I don’t hate him enough to feel sickened by what he does, don’t like him enough to feel pity for him.
The one thing that entertained me more than it should was John Connolly. Joel Edgerton plays him so brilliantly as a FBI wannabe mobster that it makes you recoil. He’s that guy in college who does shit to impressive the popular crew, it’s pretty painful to watch. He goes out of his way for Bulger in a way which is confusing and seems to have very little gain (aside from financial) for him. Subsequently he ends up doing one of the longest sentences out of anyone, which makes it all the more pitiful.
Watch it for the violence and sexy accents.
Don’t watch it if you’re tired