Given a cast of Depp, Cumberbatch, Bacon, Sarsgaard, Johnson and Edgerton I had high hopes for Black Mass. Unfortunately, despite some good performances, I felt a little disappointed.
Based in Boston, Black Mass tells the true story of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.
Given that Depp has been lost as Jack Sparrow in every role since 2003 this is a real return to form. Even through heavy prosthetics delivers a real powerhouse of a performance as James ‘Whitey’ Bulger. Depp delivers a quiet menace, overlaid with strong violence.
The problem with Black Mass is that it spreads itself too thin. Whilst we see Bulger’s character go from small time heavy to overlord, we never really understand why. We are given the impression that Edgerton’s Connelly owes Bulger something from their youth, but the story never really expands. Given all that Connelly does, the story of sorting some schoolyard bullies just doesn’t really explain it. There’s a glimpse of some link to the IRA, police corruption, links to corrupt politicians, but it’s all glossed over. We intermittently see Bulger’s Senator’s brother, but there’s no real depth.
Edgerton is brilliant as FBI Agent Connelly and steals almost every scene he’s in, a real masterclass in a tortured soul. At the same time Cumberbatch, Bacon and Sarsgaard are all under used.
Everything considered, this film really falls short of films like The Departed or Goodfellas, even with Depp’s fantastic performance.