Black Mass, rated R
This film is based on the book Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil’s Deal by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. It is directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace), and written by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth (Spectre, Edge of Tomorrow). The film tells the true story of Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger, played by a heavily made up Johnny Depp, who has been nominated for Best Actor for his performance by the Screen Actors Guild.
The film begins in 1975; in South Boston, Jimmy’s empire includes drugs, prostitution and racketeering. His chief rival is Jerry Angiulo, who heads the Italian mafia, a prime target of the FBI. Jimmy Connolly, well played by Joel Edgerton, who wrote, directed and starred as Gordo in 2015’s excellent The Gift, is an FBI agent and childhood friend of Whitey. He owes Whitey for protecting him when they were kids. He proposes a secret arrangement that will benefit Whitey by allowing him to serve as an FBI informant on the Italian mafia, while they look the other way on his illegal activities. As Connolly gets in deeper and deeper with Whitey, we see him begin to dress, act and even walk differently, and have relationship difficulties with his boss (Kevin Bacon) and wife Marianne (Julianne Nicholson). Fellow-agent John Morris (David Harbour) works with Connelly on this arrangement for several years until he can take it no longer. Lead Prosecutor Fred Wyshak (Corey Stoll from House of Cards) can’t figure out why Bulger and his group continue to rule Boston right under the nose of the FBI.
The film is told in flashbacks as Bulger’s inner circle Kevin Weeks (Jesse Plemons), Steve Flemmi (Rory Cochrane) and John Martorano (W. Earl Brown), to lessen their sentences, years later provide the FBI with information about Whitey. Bulger is portrayed as a brutal monster, showing kindness only to his card-cheating mother, girlfriend (Dakota Johnson), his young son (Luke Ryan), and Massachusetts State Senator and University President brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Imitation Game). This is an amazing true story.
Bulger would become number two (behind only Osama bin Laden) on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list during the 16 years he was in hiding before his capture in California in 2011.
The film is “R” for a significant amount of adult language (including several abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names and lots of f-bombs), and brutal violence (beatings and murders). It features a strong cast, led by Depp, who continues to show his versatility as an actor, and the multi-talented Edgerton, who builds on his critically acclaimed work in The Gift.