If No One Sees It, It Didn't Happen
Stars: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane, W. Earl Brown, Julianne Nicholson, Dakota Johnson, David Harbour and Peter Sarsgaard
Director: Scott Cooper
Scriptwriters: Mark Maliouk and Jez Butterworth from the book, “Black Mass” by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill
Composer: Junkie XL
Cinematography: Masanobu Takayanagi
Cross Creek Pictures/Warner Brothers
Rating: R for language, violence and themed material
Running Length: 123 minutes
Oscar nomination time is a few months away and here comes another in-depth Johnny Depp movie. This time, he immerses himself in the role of Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger, gangster criminal from South Boston, who ruled crime in that part of the city during the 1970’s and on. Bulger is now in prison. This story is centered on his early years and rise to power with murderous means. Depp is transformed into looking like photos of Bulger, who had white skin and light-colored hair. Depp’s brother, Billy, is played by the tall and British, Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock Holmes”), and the third person in this group is Joel Edgerton ("Exodus: Gods and Kings"), who plays John Connolly, a FBI agent and childhood friend. Out of the streets of Irish-Boston, came crime, legislature and crime-fighting all in one group of friends in which the bonds of friendship are stronger than the ties of law. The law here being rather easy-going.
Bulger begins his climb into the criminal world with racketing, etc., and eventually gains prominence through guile and street smarts. Murder is just eliminating the competition, and he ends up with two people to do it, Stephen Flemmi (Rory Cochrane from “CSI; Miami”) and Johnny Martorano (W. Earl Brown from “Deadwood.”) It doesn't matter what time of day it is, or who else is there, they get the job done. There is also a younger person, a thug-in-training, Kevin Weeks (Jesse Plemons from “Breaking Bad”) who looks like a beat-up Matt Damon. Jesse likes to punch people and his nose tells a story, too. People are frightened to talk, which is beginning to sound like 2015. A study in terror control. Edgerton is assigned to get Bulger, and he and Whitey figure out a way to get information to the Feds (which made Whitey an informant) and still allow Bulger to keep his crime syndicate. This goes on for years until new people come on the job and suddenly, true crime-fighters are back in business.
There are plenty of murders in this film and one or two favorite burial spots. No one is safe if Bulger thinks they will pass information on about him. He cares about family, especially his mother, who would have to be the safest person in Boston at that time. Another safe one is Whitey’s brother, Billy, (William Bulger) who was a state representative for many years, saying he knew nothing of his brother’s work, and saying it and saying it.
Depp’s appearance seems pronounced, along with Edgerton's. This is a cast of people portraying characters who did not show off. They couldn't afford it, because then someone would take notice. Depp gives us the criminal with a temper-flare of five seconds and the viciousness of a cobra. His two killer friends, Flemmi (Rory Cochrane) and Mantorano (W. Earl Brown) are slightly different, more of the “hit man” mode in which a job is a job. Cochrane nearly steals his scenes, with deep, soulful eyes that seem to say, “I don't want to do it, but I will.”
As far as the ladies, Dakota Johnson (“Shades of Grey”) is Bulger’s girlfriend, Lindsey Cyr and mother of his child. She has a few scenes in the film, as with Julianne Nicholson as Marianne Connolly (Edgerton’s wife) and Juno Temple (Deborah) who is one of Flemmi’s girlfriends. They are there, and then the story moves on.
As a study in crime, “Black Mass” shows us a criminal on the rise, who is clever and has just the right combination of law enforcement to keep him out of jail. Surrounded by killers, Flemmi and Martorano, agent Connolly and a brother in the senate, Bulger had it made for years. And then the black mass of retribution came calling.
Copyright 2015 Marie Asner