Crime may never pay but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from cashing in. ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Sopranos’ are amongst the many popular mainstays. Having intricate relationships between gangs in common, those works set a benchmark in exploration of mob culture. ‘Black Mass’ gamely tries to add its own take. As gritty as its predecessors, it doesn’t add anything new but has enough rough sheen to prove why such movies continue to be enduring.
John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) and James Bulger (Johnny Depp) have grown up on Boston’s mean streets. Becoming an FBI agent, John reunites with is child-hood friend in an unexpected way. Head of the Irish mafia, James is a dangerous criminal on the FBI’s most wanted lists. Lethal in his dealings, James catches the ire of the Italian mob. Caught in the deadly cross-fire, John must choose between personal sentiment and career loyalty in order to take James down.
Directed with raw finesse by Scott Cooper, ‘Black Mass’ is gripping mostly due to Depp’s intensely menacing performance. Using his deep blue eyes almost as an intimidating weapon, Bulger’s reign of terror knew no bounds. His violent, psychotic actions take on new dimensions knowing the film is based on true events. How he manipulated those around him, including his supposed close friends, give ‘Black Mass’ a strong spine in which to carry its story.
Edgerton is fine too as Bulger’s mis-guided friend caught in his web. The quality of his acting matches those of his co-stars who successfully conjure the era in which ‘Black Mass’ is set. Whilst there are moments of predictability given the familiar material, Depp’s magnetic characterisation and general authenticity provide engagement. Hardly a frame is wasted which is a credit to Cooper’s wish in allowing his characters drive the story than simply having endlessly violent action.
‘Black Mass’ is full of the shady crime that devotees should admire. Often disturbing and ugly but that’s the point of a film purporting to be presenting facts. It does this well with the prospect of more crime movies like this one as certain as the ongoing vicious nature of crime itself.
Movie Review Rating out of 10: 7
Movie Review by Patrick Moore
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