Black Mass (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Scott Cooper|
|Based on||Black Mass
by Dick Lehr
and Gerard O’Neill
|Music by||Junkie XL|
|Edited by||David Rosenbloom|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$30.1 million|
Black Mass is a 2015 American crime film directed by Scott Cooper and written by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth, based on the 2001 bookBlack Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. The film stars Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Peter Sarsgaard, Rory Cochrane, Adam Scott, Dakota Johnson, and Corey Stoll.
The film follows the criminal career of infamous Irish-American mobsterWhitey Bulger (Depp). Principal photography of the film began on May 19, 2014 in Boston, and wrapped on August 1, 2014. The film had its world premiere at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival, and was released by Warner Bros. worldwide on September 18, 2015.
In 1975, James “Whitey” Bulger, a small-time gangster and leader of the Irish-AmericanWinter Hill Gang, controls almost all of organized crime within South Boston, along with his right-hand man Stephen Flemmi, newcomer Kevin Weeks, and cold and calculative hitman, Johnny Martorano. Bulger’s hold over South Boston is challenged by the northern Angiulo Brothers, a rising and powerful family group with ties to the mafia.
An interesting opportunity arises with the return of John Connolly to South Boston; Connolly being a former native of the area and friend of Whitey and his brother, William “Billy” Bulger, a Boston senator. Connolly’s advancement within his position in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) pressures him into attempting to find a way to go after the Angiulo Brothers, who are continuing to avoid police detection. Connolly tries to persuade Billy into getting Whitey to cooperate with the FBI, but Billy refuses him yet gives notice to Whitey. Whitey detests of the idea of going “rat” for the police, but feels the pressure on himself as he wishes to protect both his wife, Lindsey, and son, Douglas. After the Angiulo Brothers murder a member of the Winter Hill gang, Whitey decides to go informant for Connolly, much to Flemmi’s dismay.
Connolly’s control over Whitey is continually questioned however by his boss, Charles McGuire, although he is also defended by his close co-worker, John Morris, who blindly follows Connolly’s plan.
Tensions increase as Whitey ignores the informant rules of no crime or killing; using his ‘protection’ to further his criminal agenda with the gang. He becomes unhinged however, when his son suddenly goes into a vegetative state from Reye syndrome, leading Lindsey to pull the plug and let him die. Their relationship breaks off afterward, just as Connolly begins demanding actual information on the Angiulo Brother’s racketeering locations. Finally, Whitey is able to get pictures of their work hideouts, allowing the FBI to wiretap the Angiulos head-on.
Before McGuire can terminate the informant operation, the wiretaps pick up the Angiulos discussing their criminal activities, leading the FBI to arrest them, also eliminating any opposition to Whitey’s growing empire. Connolly, blinded by his old past and loyalty to Whitey, grows closer to him and the gang as more than simple ‘informants.’ His wife, Marianne, is disgusted by their presence at home, but is forced to deal with them and her husband’s further change.
Problems rise later on as Whitey is suddenly cut out of an embezzlement scheme from World Jai Alai and directs Martorano to murder the oncoming owner Roger Wheeler, and their original embezzlement contact, John Callahan. Whitey suspects that an associate who overhears the murder plan, Brian Halloran, would not keep it a secret, so he pays him off to leave. Halloran later hears about Wheeler’s murder and, scared for his life, Halloran goes to the FBI to report Bulger’s relation to the crime. Connolly and Morris intercept and interview Halloran, but point to his cocaine addiction and dismiss his accusations against Bulger. Connolly, fearing Whitey is in too deep, breaks the law by telling Whitey of Halloran’s accusation. Whitey then hunts down and murders Halloran and an unnamed friend of his in broad daylight soon after.
The Winter Hill gang’s informant relationship degenerates because of Whitey’s own increasing violent behavior – threatening Morris and Marianne, as well as murdering Flemmi’s prostitute stepdaughter, Deborah Hussey. Ultimately, the downfall begins as Fred Wyshak, a “bulldog” prosecutor, moves into the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Connolly attempts to make friends with Wyshak, who coldly refuses and also scolds Connolly’s idiotic relationship with Whitey, demanding that the FBI begin to bring Whitey down. When John McIntyre, an informant within the Winter Hill gang itself, blows the whistle on Whitey’s attempt at weapons running for the Provisional Irish Republican Army, he is soon found out and murdered by the gang, most likely due again to Connolly’s inside information. Wyshak and McGuire investigate Connolly’s control over Whitey’s informant activity. They discover that most of what Connolly presented as Whitey’s tips were actually repeats of earlier tips from low-level informants. Morris reveals the true relationship that Connolly and Whitey had, in return for immunity for his crimes.
Whitey is forced to acknowledge the end, when The Boston Globe publishes a front-page article about his informant activities, which causes him to lose the gang’s trust. In the final scenes, Connolly, Flemmi, Weeks, and Martorano are arrested. Whitey goes on the run, but not before giving Billy a final goodbye from a pay phone. After Connolly’s and the other characters’ sentences are shown, a final scene reveals Whitey being finally caught by the FBI in 2011, 16 years after the initial crackdown.
Black Mass is an Academy Award level movie, and Johhny Depp redeems his himself after the flop Mortdecai. In fact, Depp out acts Cumberbatch and everyone else in the film. Johhny Depp and Joel Edgerton’s accents never wavered, but a few of the others do. Which disappointed me since it was Cumberbatch, who twisted the English into an Irish character in a way an American could tell the difference.
That aside, it is an all-star cast, and if it doesn’t win Best Actor, best Supporting Cast, and Best Film (out of what I’ve seen so far) …then the Oscars are rigged. Depp is that good. 3/4 through the movie I had to remind himself it was Depp.
Highly recommended. 5 stars, Top Notch Entertainment, and One of the Best “based on a true story films” EVER MADE! – MR