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Black Mass

Ho-hum. Yeah, Depp’s pretty good. His makeup–not so much, but I like him overall. Oscar chose to skip him, though. It’s a reasonably compelling two hours, and an interesting true story. But Scott Cooper is not a very strong director, and he’s obviously cribbing from much better films that set the template for this kind of stuff in the late 20th century. 1997’s “Donnie Brasco” is one of those films–and it just happens to also star Mr. Depp. Jez Butterworth’s and Mark Mallouk’s screenplay can’t seem to elevate this material above the level of average either. There’s a distinct “been there, seen that” flavor to “Black Mass”. It’s very forgettable.

It’s 1975, and James “Whitey” Bulger (Mr. Depp) leads a notorious Irish-American organized crime gang in South Boston. FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton…fine) grew up with “Whitey”, and attempts to make Bulger an FBI informant. Bulger eventually accepts the proposal, therefore making him a “rat”. But he also finds time to be kind to little old ladies, and be a wonderful, caring father to his little boy. But it’s only matter of time before the sadistic and brutal “Whitey” is exposed in his duplicitousness.

There’s an impressive cast here, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Sarsgaard, Dakota Johnson and Julianne Nicholson. The movie delivers on a couple of high-tension setups, and I bet the book this is based on would be an interesting read. Then it would blow things with an obvious pandering scene of showing that Bulger actually “had a heart”. The tone is all wrong, and the rythym of the film suffers terribly because of it. Therefore, I’d recommend a good ten true-crime movies ahead of “Black Mass”. In fact, if you haven’t experienced it, “Donnie Brasco” is a great place to start.

Grade:  C

next review up:  “Anomalisa”

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