If there’s any redemption for infamously monstrous Irish mobster, “Whitey” Bulger in “Black Mass,” it’s that he loves his mother and son. After their deaths, there is no stopping his murderous rampage as South Boston’s most feared crime lord.
Yet here’s the twist: Bulger is informant to FBI agent John Connolly and brother to powerful Boston senator Billy Bulger. In an intricate web of misplaced loyalties, cold murder and unresolved characters, “Black Mass” demands keen attention.
With that said, the film isn’t for everyone. This isn’t the typical action-packed and edge-of-your-seat thriller. It’s one that latches viewers onto an enigmatic Bulger, whom Johnny Depp plays disturbingly well.
Depp has an uncanny ability to shroud himself in any character he plays, and Bulger’s cold indifference and violent temperament is no exception. This hardened, dangerous Depp is certainly a far cry from the Depp we know through the Mad Hatter, Jack Sparrow or even Mortdecai.
The film finds Bulger at the far end of his notorious bout as Boston’s most feared gangster. The Italian mafia begins to dominate in North Boston and in an effort to take the Italians down, Connolly makes a deal with the devil. Bulger provides intel to Connolly about the mafia, but his own Irish mob continues to run undisturbed.
An aged Bulger, hair slicked back and slowly receding, is a hands-on man. He shows no remorse beating others, choking a drug-addicted prostitute to death and shooting without a flinch or any sign of remorse.
Meanwhile, Benedict Cumberbatch’s role as Billy Bulger wasn’t the perfect pairing, but his privileged, virtuous persona makes you wonder how the other brother, Whitey, turned out so bad. However, it’s just hard to swallow Cumberbatch’s British accent and forced attempts to talk like a Bostonian.
The Bulger brothers’ relationship seems minimal during the majority of the film, despite an inexplicable craving to learn more about the strange bond each held with the other. Bulger’s straight jean, bomber jacket, aviator shades style starkly contrasts his younger brother’s suit and tie in the upper echelons of politics.
Their relationship culminates in an unexpected call Whitey Bulger makes to his brother in a dark, undesignated phone booth following the realization that the FBI has started to crack down on him and his Irish mob.
However, Connolly is hard to figure out. He starts off with the intention of destroying the Italian mafia with Bulger’s help, but soon becomes rogue with the benefits of working with a ruthless mob lord.
In a borderline horrific scene, Whitey Bulger confronts Connolly’s wife and casually slips his hand around her neck with both sensual touch and murderous resolution. A paralyzed Marianne Connolly, played by Julianne Nicholson, is left in trembling terror in an unforgettably unnerving performance.
The most unnerving part of the entire film is probably that it’s a true story. Whitey Bulger was actually one of Boston’s most dangerous and feared gangsters. He was an informant for the FBI for almost two decades and after fleeing Boston in 1994, was arrested in Santa Monica, California in 2011.
“We really did kill those people,” Bulger’s friend, Kevin Weeks, said according to The Daily Beast. “But the movie is fantasy.”
Diler Haji is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.