Film Review – Black Mass (2015)

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Title – Black Mass (2015)

Director – Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace)

Cast – Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard, Julianne Nicholson

Plot – Based on the true story of Boston’s most notorious criminal, James “Whitey” Bulger (Depp) and his rise through the criminal underworld in the mid 80’s and early 90’s thanks to his working relationship with his FBI friend John Connolly (Edgerton) and his politician brother Billy (Cumberbatch).

“It’s not what you do, it’s when and where you do it, and who you do it to or with”

Review by Eddie on 9/10/2015

There’s something somewhat unspectacular about Black Mass. A strange thing considering the material at its disposal and the cast of A listers that adorn it’s scenes, but Black Mass never makes the most of the tools as its disposal and while ending up as an enjoyable and a sometimes downright intense watch, you can’t help but escape the feeling this Johnny Depp renaissance led mob film missed an opportunity to become a downright classic.

Tusk, Mortdecai, Transcendence, The Lone Ranger, Dark Shadows, countless Pirates of the Caribbean forgettable’s and Australian dog law problems, it hasn’t been a great period of time to be Johnny Depp or a Depp fan but when the first clips of Black Mass appeared earlier this year and advance reactions to the film overwhelming positive, the general consensus was that Black Mass could be the career saver of the dwindling star.

While the film around him suffers from a general lack of heart and soul that would’ve made it a truly audience grabbing event, Depp is without a doubt the MVP of the show. His portrayal of real life Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger is one of his most instantly memorable screen incarnations even though by the films end you feel his turn was underutilised by director Scott Cooper. Whenever Depp’s on screen, all menace and fiery from within, Black Mass is elevated to another level. He shares in a few scenes that will make you straighten your back and be glued to the screen. It’s an impressive turn but not one I’m convinced will garner the actor his 4th Oscar nomination.

Surrounding Depp’s turn is a hugely loaded cast that bar Joel Edgerton’s FBI agent John Connolly get a pretty short shift of proceedings. Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Saarsgarrd, Corey Stoll and Jesse Plemons all impress but don’t get much to do while the females in the picture Julianne Nicholson, Dakota Johnson and Juno Temple get an even shorter straw with mere minutes of screen time in what seems like a boys only adventure.

It’s a real shame Cooper couldn’t draw more out of this loaded tale and his star studded cast and it’s curious that such a thrilling story on paper can at times become such a lacking and uninvolving event on screen. Overall there’s a real lack of emotion here that holds back much investment the audience would’ve otherwise afforded this mobster tale.

It’s great to see Depp once more deliver on his talent and there are scenes within Black Mass that rank as some of the year’s best but at the end of the day this highly watchable and finely filmed story is a bit of a soulless affair that missed its opportunity to become something truly special.

3 ½ leather jackets out of 5

14 responses to “Film Review – Black Mass (2015)

  1. Hi guys – thanks for the heads up! I’m seeing this on Sunday and was really looking forward to it, but now I’ll dial back the expectations I had. I’m surprised though you didn’t mention that Joel Edgerton had borrowed Steven Seagal’s wig for the movie…

  2. I’m looking forward to seeing Depp in form again. I can’t remember a role he played that I liked since Fear and Loathing, which is almost 20 years old! Like the above comment I think I’ll dial my expectations down a bit, though I’m really happy for Joel Edgerton scoring a pretty big role in this. Hopefully I get to see it tonight

  3. Bummed to hear this wasn’t as great as it appeared. With a cast this rich I was expecting great things. Liked Cooper’s previous films. I’ll still see it. I just won’t expect greatness.

  4. I really like this review and can’t wait to see this movie, you did a nice job. I wanted to actually nominate you for the 3-day quote challenge.
    The rules are simple:
    1) write 3 quotes in 3 consecutive days
    2) make sure to acknowledge the person who nominated you
    3) nominate 3 people

  5. Great review with fair analysis. I still haven’t seen it, but the Oscar hype definitely died down after release. Now I understand a bit better, why. Thanks. It still looks and sounds like Depp delivers though, so I’m excited for that performance.

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