Black Mass


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Black Mass
"It's true what they say about violence. Too much and you become immune." | Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

Corrupt cops are beginning to look like the norm. Here we go again, although this is not FBI agent John Connolly's (Joel Edgerton) story so much as that of Boston South psychopath, Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp).

Between 1975 and 1985 Bulger and his execution squad murdered people right, left and in the supermarket car park in the middle of the day. No one did a damn thing because Connolly had persuaded his boss (Kevin Bacon) that by infiltrating Bulger's gang he - with the help of they - could eliminate the Mafia from Boston North.

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It's all about "blood and honour and loyalty". It's all about the Irish. Connolly is a Southie, born and bred, same as Bulger. The ties are tight, this Irish kinship. They are brothers under the skin, which is shorthand for I scratch/you scratch. Connolly protects Bulger from arrest and Bulger protects Connolly from a bullet in the back of the head.

The 15 certificate is liberal to a fault. The violence and the language demand 18. Despite a performance by Depp that outstrips anything he has done before the film suffers from director Scott Cooper's crude storytelling. Watching murders up close again and again numbs the brain. Where is this going? What does it mean?

In Deadwood you can evoke the anarchy of a lawless society where life is cheap and tough guys cut throats for sport, but in Boston in the Eighties it seems incredible no one realised Bulger was so deep into the dark side that he could no longer see the sky.

It's true what they say about violence. Too much and you become immune. Later you crave for something worse, or are sick over your shoes.

What's it to be, wet feet or torture porn? Better to stay at home and watch Family Guy on the box with a hot cup of cocoa and the last of Auntie Maggie's ginger cake.

Reviewed on: 21 Nov 2015
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The true story of violent criminal turned FBI informant Whitey Bulger in Boston.
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Director: Scott Cooper

Writer: Mark Mallouk, Jez Butterworth, based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill

Starring: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, David Harbour, Juno Temple, Julianne Nicholson, W. Earl Brown, Brad Carter

Year: 2015

Runtime: 122 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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