ByJames Porter, writer at
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James Porter

The true story of James 'Whitey' Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most notorious violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who had a secret alliance with the FBI to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.

Johnny Depp stars as Whitey Bulger and delivers one of the most chilling, haunting and impressive performances of 2015 and his entire career. Depp undergoes a transformation as he does with many of his roles but this is unlike you've ever seen him before. This is an Academy Award level performance and is undoubtedly the film's greatest strength.

Starring alongside Depp is Joel Edgerton as FBI agent John Connolly, one of Whitey's oldest friends and the man who forms the alliance between he and the FBI. Joel Edgerton is an actor who never ceases to impress me and 2015 might just be his year. Coming off an incredible directorial debut with The Gift, Edgerton delivers a supporting performance more than deserving of an Oscar nomination. The rest of the cast is very impressive, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons and Corey Stoll all deliver great, gritty performances.

The film chronicles the formation and the separation of the alliance between Whitey and the FBI and the film's narrative might be it's weakest aspect, a lot of the scenes feel all too similar to one another, and a lot of the same things happen throughout without ever feeling like events are progressing towards the end. There are some absolutely fantastic scenes scattered throughout Black Mass, the most exciting of which is a dinner conversation where Whitey begins to threaten an FBI agent due to him telling him a 'secret recipe', the scene is featured in the trailer but it's very effective once you get to know the character of Whitey. There are many scenes like this where my eyes were glued to the screen, but there isn't a lot to keep you invested on an emotional level. Whitey is a rather despicable character, and most of the supporting characters aren't all that likable either, so I personally found it quite hard to attach myself to any of them on an emotional level. There isn't a protagonist for us as an audience to latch onto and connect with because in one way or another each of the characters come off as villainous.

I like leaving a film and feeling affected, whether that be from excitement, emotion or laughter, but Black Mass left me feeling quite hollow despite some fantastic performances and scenes, the film in its entirety didn't really blend together like it should have. On a technical level the film is directed quite well by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out Of The Furnace), it's excellently shot and he gets some crazy good performances from his actors but I never felt like the story was being progressed. The story is very procedural and by that I mean scenes will often feel repeated. We'll get scenes of Edgerton arguing with his superiors at the FBI and then cut to a scene where Depp is murdering one of his once trusted allies, to add to this the pacing isn't all that great either, some scenes will fly by but others are quite slow.

Black Mass is acted perfectly, its shot excellently and it's got handful of terrific scenes, but the pacing is often off, it's hollow on an emotional level and the story didn't grip me like I hoped it would. I still recommend checking out Black Mass purely the superb performances.

What did you think of Black Mass? Let me know what you thought of the movie in the comments or on Twitter @JamesPorter97


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