Sunday, September 20, 2015

Movie Review: Black Mass

Johnny Depp's new movie Black Mass is about the real-life gangster James Whitey Bulger of Boston's Southie neighborhood.  Once again, Depp transforms himself into one of the most notorious psychopaths of modern day.  The film picks up from the time Bulger was a small-time hood in the 1970's who quickly rises to Boston's top kingpin by the mid-80's through the help of a neighborhood friend/FBI agent John Connelly.  
The real Whitey
The FBI agent approaches John's brother, Massachusetts State Senator, to feel him out about recruiting Whitey as an FBI informant.  According to the movie, the brother is not interested in Whitey's hood business.  Connelly eventually goes straight to Whitey and convinces him to "inform" on the Italian mob who currently run most of Boston's illegal activities.  With the FBI's protection, Whitey takes out his competition, becoming Boston's modern day Al Capone.  The shit hits the fan.  Spoiler Alert: Everyone turns, Whitey runs and gets caught 15 years later, and, with exception to Whitey, Connelly gets the longest prison sentence (40 years) without even committing a drug deal or murder.
My Review: I was particularly interested in seeing this movie.  My daughter Isabella and I volunteered for Chicago's Literary Fest a few years ago.  Isabella got assigned to the writers' conference room as an usher.  She got to meet the authors of Black Mass and learn about Whitey all afternoon.  We both loved the movie.
Isabella didn't even realize it was Johnny Depp until the end.  He was ugly, creepy, depressing, and chilling.  I wouldn't be surprised if he gets nominated for an Oscar.
The other actors were just as talented.  Joel Edgarton (Tom in Great Gatsby) was especially amazing as John Connelly, the FBI agent who gets caught up in the excitement of the gangster life.
As good as the movie was, I still had questions.  Did John Connelly ever get money from Whitey?  There were a few scenes in which his wife asked about his expensive clothes and he made mention of their expensive house, but the rest is unclear.  Also, outside of Whitey telling the FBI where the Italian mob's headquarters were, I was not sure what other information Whitey ever gave the FBI for their protection against arrests.  Seemed like Whitey received much, much more than he ever gave from the informant relationship.  I also wondered how deep Whitey was in with the IRA.  In the movie there was a brief scene in which Whitey bought them some weapons and maybe a boat.  
I wished this movie was longer with more details.  Overall, it was worth the 9-10 bucks to go see on the big screen if you like mobster movies, but it didn't come close to Goodfellas or Casino.  4/5 Stars

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