Black Mass Blu-ray Review
Too often in the last decade or so, Johnny Depp has played larger than life characters rather than flesh and blood human beings. It was a relief to see him get back to his DONNIE BRASCO roots that he so excels in. BLACK MASS is one of Depp’s best performances in quite a while.
BLACK MASS tells the story of famous South Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger (Depp). The film jumps around in time, but it’s not hard to follow along. Some of Bulger’s associates testified against him to get a lighter sentence. We see these people as they tell the story of Bulger.
We go back to 1975. Bulger is not yet a heavyweight in the crime world. He though is respected and feared in his South Boston neighborhood. An older lady finds joy that he is out of prison. That was the duality of Bulger. Like Al Capone before him in Chicago, the locals loved him while outsiders wondered why he wasn’t taken down. A softer side is shown as he dotes on his young wife and son. He also has a strong relationship with his brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his mother. Billy was a powerful state senator who walked the righteous path. It is a fascinating portrait that Billy turned one way in his life, while Whitey turned the other.
Tragedy strikes Whitey and he grows colder to the people around him. An old neighborhood friend reaches out to him to make a mutually beneficial deal. His name is John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) and he’s a rising star in the FBI. Connolly wants Whitey to give him intel on the Italian mafia in exchange for looking the other way for some of his illegal activities. Whitey has always insisted that he wasn’t an informant. He hated rats with a passion. He has stated he directed Connolly and not the other way around.
The awkward relationship between Whitey and the feds goes on for years with no real information gathered from Whitey. The Feds are not happy about the arrangement. Connolly’s supervisor Charles McGuire (Kevin Bacon) is chomping at the bit for anything and he’s growing impatient. The year has jumped to 1981 at this time and once again Whitey is in mourning. This has calloused Whitey’s heart even further. These scenes really show Depp at his best at showing how Whitey can turn his mood and demeanor in a second. One of these great moments is at the dinner table where he scowls at a man and confronts him for giving away a family recipe secret before laughing at him for taking him seriously. Another one shows Whitey teaching his son how to get away with something. It is a terrible lesson, but he fully believes in it. Whitey is very big on honor and the code. You follow that at all times and everything will be all right. If you don’t, there will be problems as we see time and time again in this film.
Director Scott Cooper has presented a complex man with many faces and it is always interesting to watch. Much of what is shown on screen is remarkably true. That is the beauty of it. Cooper also wisely used Boston for much of the shoot and even used places where the crimes took place. This level of authenticity makes the viewing even better. We see how crime corrupts. Connolly gets a taste of the life in crime and he wants more and more of it. It doesn’t matter that he is jeopardizing his career and his freedom. Whitey has a hold on him and won’t let go. Whitey has that type of charisma that you want to try to please him. That is probably what made him so successful and why he operated his criminal enterprise for so long.
In his criminal enterprise, Whitey had his loyal soldiers as it were. They included Stephen Flemmi (Rory Cochrane), Johnny Martorano (W. Earl Brown) and Kevin Weeks (Jesse Plemons). All of these men had a part to play. They would hand out bribes, beat up people or even kill a person or two. And with every criminal activity, there is bound to be a person who seeks to bring them down. That would be assistant US attorney in Boston, Fred Wyshak (Corey Stoll) here. This was a man possessed and he desired to bring down Whitey and his Winter Hill Gang. But with the level of involvement that the FBI had in this case, it proved to be difficult at times. The various allegiances are laid out quite clearly. Many people had their hands dirty with all of these nefarious dealings that Whitey and his gang dished out. This was a dark period for the FBI in Boston for how everything played out and how Bulger evaded capture for so long.
BLACK MASS is a well done crime drama with Johnny Deep back in fine form. It is well worth watching.
Video: The movie looked good on video. The streets of Boston were well represented.
Audio: The sound was solid as everything came through crystal clear.
Black Mass: Deepest Cover, Darkest Crime (23:00): The actors, director, producer and authors of “Black Mass” give the lowdown on all of the dealings of Whitey and his crew. The director talks about what drew him to the story. The actors talk about their characters and the motivations behind their actions.
Johnny Depp: Becoming Whitey Bulger (12:24): We see what Depp went through to get the look of Bulger just right. This involved makeup, prosthetics and blue contacts. It is a remarkable transformation. Deep talks at length about Bulger and his actions. He interestingly seems to respect the man and his honor.
The Manhunt for Whitey Bulger (1:01:38): This is an exhaustive feature about how they finally got Whitey Bulger in the end. The state police, US attorneys, FBI agents, journalists and regular folks give their take on what went down. The FBI gets a lot of blame for propping up Bulger and letting him get away.