Like Pawn Sacrifice, Director Scott Cooper’s Black Mass is, also, a docu-drama, but with more emphasis on the drama. However, also, like Pawn Sacrifice, the main character is not at all sympathetic and, since the authorities are just as bad as he is, there is really no one to root for.
The script by Mark Mallouk and James Butterworth, for the most part, keeps the years-skipping story moving, but allows some characters like Bulger’s wife to simply disappear without sufficient resolution.
The best thing about the film is some of the performances. First of all Johnny Depp redeems himself with some of his recent bad choices… Mordecai, The Lone Ranger…and gives an award-worthy portrayal of the notorious James “Whitey” Bulger.
Joel Edgerton also gives a fine performance as John Connolly, the FBI agent, who allows Bulger to build his empire.
But, in some respects, the most interesting performance is by Benedict Cumberbach as Whitey’s brother Billy, who was a power in the Massachusetts State Senate. Seeing how the man who plays the arrogant Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series holds his chest in and creates an air of meekness, not to mention his handling of the Boston accent, is a testament to the art that, occasionally, rises above the craft of acting.
I give Black Mass a 4 out of 5.