Friday, April 29, 2016

Film Review: Black Mass (2015)

Black Mass (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: VUDU Rental
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...filled with lively characters, ominous atmosphere, and unnerving suspense."

The story of James "Whitey" Bulger (Johnny Depp) and his rise to power as an informant for the FBI.

Black Mass tells the story of James "Whitey" Bulger – or, simply 'Jimmy.' John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) is an FBI agent who returns to South Boston. He grew up with Jimmy in the city and plans on cleaning it up – well, at least the north part of Boston. He convinces Jimmy to become an informant, forming an alliance between the crime family and the FBI. Jimmy uses the FBI to take out his competition, which the FBI are targeting, and the FBI agree to look the other way for some non-violent crimes. Problem is: Jimmy is rather unstable and he's more than willing to bury anyone who crosses his path. At the same time, Connolly essentially idolizes Jimmy and he's willing to put his job on the line for the man – and he does so countless times. Of course, with each rise in crime films, there's always a fall. This isn't spectacle to behold, but the ending gives us a solid resolution.

Black Mass is a fantastic film. If you've read my reviews, you know I love crime films like The Godfather, Scarface, or Serpico. (All of those films have Al Pacino in them, don't they? Hmm...) This film echoes the greats from the past. It tells an engaging rise-to-power tale with an interesting character. Obviously not someone you'd praise, unless you're a criminal yourself, Jimmy is really a multi-layered kingpin with a few loose screws. He's something that you don't see in other crime films – pure evil. Whether Jimmy or Connolly are leading the scene, or both, the film is filled with tension. Without the need for glitz and bullets, the film is always suspenseful. The dialogue alone keeps you at the edge of your seat. That's a fairly large accomplishment when you think about it.

Johnny Depp commands the film with his performance as Whitey. He fully immerses himself into this sinister character, never skipping a beat. Joel Edgerton is great as the FBI agent with criminal motivations, too. Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, and Rory Cochrane also offer great supporting performances. Really, the entire cast was fantastic. The film is shot well and the music, albeit limited, was great. The film was written by Jez Butterworth and Mark Mallouk, and directed by Scott Cooper. The film is well written and directed, focusing on character and suspense over style. Don't get me wrong, the film feels 70s/80s, as the setting demands, but the substance is richer than the aesthetics. The writing and direction serve as a vessel to deliver a superb story – and that vessel travels a smooth path.

Overall, Black Mass is a superb film. The film is filled with lively characters, ominous atmosphere, and unnerving suspense. Led by an astonishing performance from Johnny Depp, the cast filled a gritty world brimming with loyalty, betrayal, and violence. The ending felt a bit abrupt and left something to be desired, but it doesn't stop the film from leaving a strong impact. If you love crime films, watch it and enjoy. (Seriously, though, Idris Elba didn't get an Academy Award nomination for Beasts of No Nation and Johnny Depp missed the slate, too? Really?)

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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