In “Black Mass” Johnny Depp plays the psychopath Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger. Depp’s performance is by far the most standout feature in this movie, which is based on a true story.
In 70’s era Boston Whitey is a no-nonsense leader of a gang of men who swear a lot and do gangster stuff. Whitey is a man who takes loyalty (to himself) very seriously and will not think twice about shooting one of his friends in the back of the head after assuring him that their disagreement was water under the bridge.
One of his childhood friends, John Connolly (Joel Edgarton), is now an FBI agent. Connolly offers Whitey protection from law enforcement in exchange for being an informant against a rival mafia leader. Whitey accepts the deal and strengthens his career as a gangster.
Depp plays the part of a stoic, cold-blooded, calculating psycho perhaps all too well. Even his eyes seem devoid of a soul. Yet beneath that is a family man who will help an old lady with her groceries. After his son dies, he becomes even more vicious and his humanity goes from zero to negative numbers.
“Black Mass” feels familiar, like a combination of crime dramas we’ve seen before. Yet despite its gloomy title and atmosphere, it is not without its funny moments. The plethora of profanity shouted in feigned Boston accents is humorous even during the more dramatic moments.
The plot itself won’t keep anyone on the edge of their seat, but Johnny Depp’s performance is nothing short of amazing. He truly shows his strengths as an actor in this film and reminds us why he is an A-lister. The man can act.
One philosophical question the movie leaves us with is how loyal is too loyal? Hopefully most of us will know where to draw the line, unlike Connolly. – Kyle McKean