Film Review: Black Mass

BLACK MASS

Director and co-writer Scott Cooper continues his winning streak with Black Mass. The film is well crafted, well written and very entertaining.

Gangster Jimmy ‘Whitey’ Bulger is one of South Boston’s most notorious criminals. The brother of a state senator, Jimmy becomes an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family taking over his turf…

After the success of Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace, Scott Cooper continues to direct superlative features with Black Mass. Based on a true story, Black Mass charts the rise and fall of the famous gangster of South Boston. The film exhibits familiar gangster tropes, but these are executed in a competent and engaging fashion.

Scott Cooper’s direction is strong. The narrative is told is chronological order, with flash forwards inserted to give viewers an idea of where the story is headed. Given how well known the protagonist is, this is not a giveaway to see the outcome well in advance.

Perhaps the most interesting facet of Black Mass is other characters’ relationship with Jimmy. A range of characters are featured, with varying relationships with the protagonist. Each of these connections help to sketch a picture of Jimmy, ensuring he is a three-dimensional protagonist. Towards the outcome of the film, the different choices his compatriots make are illuminating. There is a poignancy point at the end of the film with regards to John Connolly and the decision he makes about Jimmy.

Violence is a prominent feature of Black Mass. The willingness of Jimmy to carry out these brutal acts successful exemplify the type of character he is. Cooper does not shy away from depicting some brutal violence, yet it never feels gratuitous given the tone of the film. The soundtrack and costumes works well to signpost the changing eras. Art direction is good, with cool colours contrasting strongly with neon lighting in certain scenes.

Johnny Depp gives one of his strongest performances in recent years as Jimmy Bulger. Joel Edgerton is very believable as Connolly, whilst Benedict Cumberbatch and Rory Cochrane are decent in supporting roles.

Black Mass is great addition to the gangster movie genre, and enjoyable film overall.

Black Mass is being screened at the London Film Festival in October 2015.

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