Telluride Review: Black Mass (★★★)


Scott Cooper’s Black Mass brings a nice return to form for Johnny Depp, who has taken on a slew of eccentric and kooky roles for quite a run. Depp plays notorious south Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger in this bleak and gloomy movie based on a true story. Between his balding yellow head and piercing blue eyes, Depp gives a devilish depiction of the infamous criminal that is still creeping me out a few hours since the credits rolled.

The mob genre, however, is a tough one to crack, as films are often compared to some of the greatest movies of all time, including The Godfather and Goodfellas, the latter of which you will find very near similarities in Black Mass – including a “Funny how?” moment. However, Cooper and company add their own essence to the story, including a corrupt political alliance between Bulger and the FBI, who for a decade, allowed the mobster to avoid prosecution for the numerous crimes he committed due to Bulger’s cooperation informing on the rival Cosa Nostra.

Depp is outstanding, as is the rest of the cast, including Joel Edgerton, who plays a man that grew up with the Bulgers and later became an unethical FBI agent. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Bulger’s brother, Massachusetts State Senator Billy Bulger empathetically, while Breaking Bad’s Jesse Plemons gives maybe the best performance of the lot in one of the most under-utilized roles of the year.

Black Mass is a palatable crime film as hard-edged as any of its predecessors and is well worth a look when it hits theaters September 18.