The latest film in a somewhat disappointing spell for Johnny Depp is Scott Cooper’s Black Mass. The only award that’ll be handed out in regards to this film is to any audience-member who can survive looking at Depp’s depiction of South Boston King-pin James “Whitey” Bulger for the film’s rather dry duration of two hours and two minutes.
The film is based on the book entitled Black Mass, which tells the story of Bulger, an Irish thug who quickly moved from petty crime to organizing an entire gang of infamous crime-lords. While there’s certainly a reverence of the local history of Bulger, nodding to his deeply religious, Catholic background and family dedication, the script never fully fleshing out some of the most interesting plot threads.
Black Mass could have been so much more if it moved past the oversimplified and stereotypical trope of gangster loyalty and moved out to explore the unique social creation of the city and territory wars between the Italian and Irish mobs in a more revolutionary way. Additionally, Bulger’s entire IRA connection is all but immediately dismissed – which could have created a compelling sub-plot.
Cooper’s goal was likely to create the next Argo, but somewhere along the line, the film became a rather monotonous gangster film.
The cinematography, however, is beautiful, making even the desolate “Southey” streets look like a compelling backdrop for the crime drama that unfolds.
All in all, Black Mass succeeds only slightly, and only as a result of the weight of Bulger’s name and legacy. As much as I’d like to, I just cannot declare Black Mass “wicked awesome”. Let’s face it, no film adaption of life in Boston is complete without the inclusion of “Marky Mark”, and this movie just feels a little flat by the time the credits roll.