Badfellas – ★★½
Black Mass is neither as entertaining as The Departed or as thrilling as A Most Violent Year. It lies somewhere in between as a run of the mill “sympathy for the bad guy” picture that limps along. Scott Cooper is behind the camera for this his third outing after Crazy Heart and Out Of The Furnace. An impressive cast with Johnny Depp at the helm make for the same macho chest-beating and skull-crushing affairs we know all too well.
We have the usual tropes on display: the gangster who loves his mother, a robin hood figure, crooked cops, bent FBI agents, how power corrupts, all that jazz. Set in the late eighties the music doesn’t feature heavily and you wonder how Scorsese would have put the film together but then you realise he already has in Goodfellas and The Departed in which the character played by Jack Nicholson is loosely based on Bulger.
The supporting cast is vast, each playing their very own stereotype. Young up and coming hood (Jesse Plemons) dogged district attorney (Corey Stoll) marginalised housewife (Julianne Nicholson) the other woman (Dakota Johnson) gutless FBI agent (David Harbour) jumpy coke fiend (Peter Sarsgaard) and the FBI agent who’s as bad as the gangsters (Joel Edgerton). Depp’s performance is good, managing to convey the fear Bulger no doubt instilled in those around him but he’s no Joe Pesci.
Johnny Depp probably wore less make-up in Edward Scissorhands than he does here for his portrayal of Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger. The make up is a distraction but his eyes are the real annoyance. They’re too bright and sparkly for someone of Bulger’s age and break the illusion. While the make-up may be tiresome we do get to see some pretty gnarly hair cuts.
There is nothing new with Black Mass, predictable plot lines, camera angles and character arcs leave you wondering what’s the point. Twenty five years ago in Ireland Goodfellas was released, just go watch that again instead.
Black Mass opens Friday 27th of November