Let’s Get Reel: Black Mass



Promotional still from “Black Mass”
Darick T. Earney
Associate Editor

The legend of Boston gangster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger lives on through the big screen, as of Sept. 18, with the new film “Black Mass” detailing the life and crimes of the infamous Winter Hill Gang.

“Black Mass” is a hollywood crime/biopic directed by Scott Cooper and based upon the novel of the same name by Gerard K. O’Neill and Dick Lehr.

James ‘Whitey’ Bulger is played by Oscar winning actor Johnny Depp, and features an all star supporting cast of Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, and more.

The movie closely follows Bulger’s life from 1975 to 1995, as a rising criminal in Boston, MA, and working with corrupt FBI agent, and childhood friend, John Connolly (Edgerton).

Meanwhile, Whitey Bulger’s younger brother, William (Cumberbatch), lives a busy, yet peaceful life as President of the Senate of Massachusetts.

As far as performances go, I’d call this the best Johnny Depp acting performance in over a decade. His portrayal of Whitey Bulger manages to keep a withstanding feeling of awe and terror by the film’s end.

Members of the supporting cast gave stellar performances, including a brief standout role by lesser known actress, Juno Temple.

However, not all was well with the production of this motion picture. “Black Mass” is full of actors tossing around noticeably fake Boston accents that almost add a sense of comic relief to the film.

There is hardly any backstory on Whitey and the Winter-Hill gang, which paints the characters like a group of stereotypical ‘wise-guy’ mobsters who just so happen to be in Boston.

The story lacks accuracy to the history it’s retelling, making the movie seem like a mediocre ‘anti-establishment’ crime film at points.

“The fascination with the criminal justice system and its criminal offenders comes from the view of the cases or stories from the media,” Jessica Noble, professor of criminal justice, said. “Ultimately, this becomes problematic because jurors or the general public can become dismayed by the system.”


Verdict: 2 Reels.


As much as I loved seeing Johnny Depp play ‘Whitey’ Bulger, I think this film still suffered from flat plot and character development.

The story leaps time too quickly in places, and depends on the audience knowing about the Winter-Hill gang prior to seeing the picture to understand why they were feared by the FBI.

With that said, I give “Black Mass” an average rating of two reels. It had plenty of potential, yet it didn’t seem to pack a lot of punch in the final cut. Despite its flaws, it’s still a decent crime movie I’d recommend catching during a matinee screening or on DVD.


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