Black Mass (2015)

I will admit to pretty much knowing nothing about Whitey Bulger before watching this movie. Turns out, he's a gangster, and this is consequently a gangster movie. The big difference from other movies appears to be that he wasn't Italian – and that's not entirely clear from the beginning of the movie. Instead, there several negative references toward Italians, and I eventually had to figure it out in context.

Johnny Depp plays the aforementioned Whitey Bulger. His appearance in this movie is somewhat disconcerting. I'm not entirely sure how they did the effect with his head to make it look like he was balding, and I suspect they just went ahead and plucked some of his hair to do it, but it was effective. Not effective was the decision to have him where blue contact lenses to change his eye color. Every time they had a shot of his eyes, I found the artificiality of color incredibly distracting. Nevertheless, Johnny Depp always does a good job with the roles that he takes - just sometimes his roles really suck. And he's been hanging around with Tim Burton for too long.

So, we have Johnny Depp as the bad guy who's recently out of prison and trying to spread into other gangs territories. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Johnny's brother who is a State Senator. Why on earth did they have to pick Benedict Cumberbatch for this part? Don't get me wrong, Benedict is a fantastic actor, but he's very British, and his American accent is not particularly good. Add to that the difficulty of then doing a Boston accent, and your kind of setting him up for failure. He still manages to do a reasonable job with his role, despite the handicap of being British.

It would be difficult to go into all of the actors that are in this movie. They had Juno Temple, Kevin Bacon, Rory Cochrane, Dakota Johnson, Joel Edgerton, and a host of others. Every one of them seem to bring a little something extra to their role. Joel Edgerton probably gets the second most screen time after Johnny did, and his portrayal might seem a bit bland, but I think that's just how he was reading the character. This FBI guy has a lot of internal conflict, and that doesn't always come across on screen.

So, the story goes that Johnny leverages his relationship with Joel to eliminate all of his competitors while Joel uses the few scraps that Johnny gives him to try and make it seem like he's getting a lot of information from Johnny as a source and can justify giving Johnny carte blanche to run amok (free from FBI persecution). Basically, that's the story, and it goes just about as you would expect it to. I guess that's the nature of a biography that's based on real life, it won't necessarily get as complex as an entirely fictional movie would.

Acting was excellent
Direction was good
Cinematography was very good
Story was okay
Dialogue was bland

Bottom Line: A well acted and relatively entertaining movie the breaks no new ground.

2.75/5

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