The Dose: ‘Black Mass’ an entertaining, slow-burn crime drama

The Dose: ‘Black Mass’ an entertaining, slow-burn crime drama

The Dose: ‘Black Mass’ an entertaining, slow-burn crime drama
October 01
12:28 2015

Harrison Long | Editorial Writer
@HarrisonGLong

With the level of press surrounding director Scott Cooper’s new feature film “Black Mass,” the question of Johnny Depp’s resurgence from the depths of a waning career seems to be paved in the wake of this movie.

Apart from relatively consistent positive feedback surrounding the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, the once box office God Depp has found himself cast in a considerable number of flop motion pictures in recent years. There is no question of the actors’ talent or range of ability, yet the spark that makes a truly great film has seemed to be lacking as of late, leaving to question what taking on the story of a real-life mob boss may do in terms of reviving a sense of selection in role-choices.

Spanning over the course of several decades, “Mass” tells the story of James “Whitey” Bulger, one of the Boston’s most notorious gangsters and one of the F.B.I.’s most wanted fugitives for the last twenty years. There is no shortage of talent in this film, as alongside Depp are Oscar-nominated Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, The Imitation Game), Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby, The Gift), Kevin Bacon (Footloose) and Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation).

The all-star cast weaves itself in and out the story over the course of the film, beginning in 1975 at the beginning of Bulger’s climb to leader of Winter Hill Gang, switching to the present day as many of those standing alongside the purportedly insane Bulger find themselves across the table from an F.B.I. interrogator, coming to wrap in 2011 when the infamous outlaw was finally apprehended by law enforcement.

The pacing is craftily done, creating a slow-burn atmosphere in which the audience gets to know, sometimes in-detail, the circumstances surrounding many of the crimes committed by Bulger and his band of hoodlums. The only problem seems to arise in that there is so much talent on-screen, and so many different angles in which the narrative could shift, it becomes difficult to tell just who the movie is about.

Cumberbatch’s Billy Bulger makes for a fascinating case in to the context of entering politics when your, while also attempting to remain devoted to a sense of loyalty and family, finds himself answering questions in regards to how his brother, Depp’s “Whitey”, and his illicit activities bleed into the ideals of a high-level state politician.

All the same, Edgerton’s F.B.I. agent John Connolly is a fascinating case study of how exposing oneself to corruption can often weaken the principles that guide an individual. The quote “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions” is on full display, as Connolly cripples his livelihood in the midst of being drawn into a world far less tame than once anticipated. After continually choosing childhood friend Bulger over his responsibilities and duty to the F.B.I., who Connolly will choose to side with on the way down is the question which begs to be answered.

These two fascinating supporting stories alongside Bulger’s rise and fall make for great entertainment, all the while keeping an informative presentation to the audience of just how certain situations come to be, are truly worth watching. Despite all this, the mixture of talent vying for screen time and the ability to pace the story becomes slightly confusing, and is not enough to boost the film into the midst of films of old in the same nature.

To conclude, “Black Mass” is an entertaining, high-intensity tale of one of the most controversial figures in American crime, and while it does keep the audience glued to the screen for its 122 minutes, it is not enough to grant it mythic status in the world of mob movies.

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