Black Mass

Black Mass ★★★½

Black Mass is the fascinating account of Whitey Bulger's rise to power through his alliance with FBI agent John Connolly. It features what is one of Johnny Depp's most evocative performances as the seductive, vile, and morally questionable Bulger. Every shot with him in the frame never ceases to impress. As a vision of the worst of humanity, it is just a delectable treat to watch him work. He is almost equally matched by Joel Edgerton's loyalty bound, power thirsty Connolly. There are also various subplots and minor characters that are weaved throughout the tale, giving their first hand accounts of what they witnessed. It's this sprawling viewpoint that is frustrating, for the focus shifts constantly. It also doesn't help that the film fails to break free from its gangster trappings or add a fresh spin. Scott Cooper's restrained direction was a wise decision though, for he lets the actors do all the heavy lifting, which allows seemingly superfluous scenes to crackle with life. Seriously, the acting in this thing is off the charts, and leads to some memorable pieces of character interaction. The tight-knit milieu of Boston is effectively rendered through wide establishing shots and the colorful personalities of the community. The constant, looming violence is also handled with the gritty realism it deserves too. Aside from a few devastating scenes between Bulger and his girlfriend, played quite brilliantly by Dakota Johnson, there is not much of an emotional core to be found. I wasn't much bothered by it, but it could have added a lot more to the proceedings. Nevertheless, I was consistently gripped throughout this hardcore tale of cancerous corruption, even if it fails to amount to anything in the end. Then again, Bulger and company's accomplishments didn't either.

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