April 16, 2016

Battle of the Bulgers

Black Mass (Scott Cooper, 2015). Don’t you feel like you’ve seen all this before? All that creeping fascination with violence, secrets and honour. The wiretapping, the infiltration, the trips down to sunny Florida, the slow drives to somewhere remote to kill and bury somebody. Even Boston isn’t a novelty anymore (The Departed, Mystic River) although the Boston Globe was featured here as an intrepid, investigative paper a few months before it got a much bigger, lasting splash in Spotlight. The gimmick of Black Mass is that psychopathic Boston-Irish crime lord Jimmy Bulger (Johnny Depp, unthreatening despite his vampiric Hunter S Thompson make-up) and FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) are as close as family but it’s not until the credits roll and the screenplay reveals what happened to Jimmy and his politician brother, Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch), that you realise what the problem has been: Black Mass followed the wrong story.