2015 has provided us with two back to back movies which indulge and almost seduce the audience with the charisma and fear of gangsters ruling the city. If it was the Krays in London (depicted by Tom Hardy in the movie Legend), here we have the Bulger of Boston.
Black Mass is essentially Johnny Depp’s apology for the silly prosthetic-laden caricatures he had got into in the last few years which blurred from one to another in some kaleidoscopic effect. Don’t get me wrong, it is a flawed movie which almost reaches what it set out to achieve, yet fails to do so. It tries to ape some of the cult gangster movies like Goodfellas in both its dour tone and romanticisation of the criminals and the fear of such notorious men ruling the milieu.
Johnny plays James “Whitey” Bulger, a steely eyed gangster with a strong baritone and perfectly slicked back hair who ruled South Boston with the help of his senator brother (played by Bendict Cumberbatch) and his childhood friend turned FBI agent James Connolly (played by Joel Edgerton). For most part of the movie it is Connolly’s character which seems to be at constant risk of being exposed for double crossing the Bureau and constantly alerting Bulger of any impending danger, whereas Bulger roams free killing people outside golf clubs, strangling some and basically keeping an iron hand over the Boston crime scene.
Tom Holkenburg’s background score is funereal and seems to be following the title of the movie and is inspired by the sweeping scores of the likes of Hans Zimmer. The music captures the “danger lurking in the shadows” feel of Boston that film-makers have successfully captured in movies like The Departed and now Black Mass.
The movie is told in flashbacks and from the view point of the accomplices of Bulger. Therefore, the whole movie feels more like an idea of Bulger from various accounts rather than a first person insight into his humdrum and criminal life. The movie shows in details how he hoodwinked, threatened, eliminated and basically toyed with the law of the land. There is not much scope to dwell into his persona outside the dark alleys and his nasty business apart from the occasional family dinner with his wife and his kid or a game of cards with his mother. On the contrary the gruesome murders he commits are quite elaborate and sends chills down the spine. On other occasions, he intimidates even his close ones.
The scene where he terrorizes Connolly’s wife because she does not vouch for her husband’s dealings with him is pure cold. He imbues terror in her through his stare and his inappropriate touch. That scene is more terrifying than some of the gun fight in the movie.
Now, some of the issues I had with the movie. The audience does not feel much connect with the other characters. Even Benedict Cumberbatch plays second fiddle and serves merely to justify the free surge of Bulger in Boston. Some other characters with potential are virtually wasted, like Jesse Plemons, the hot headed “cleaner” for Bulger. At some point in the movie you are surprised to see or hear about a certain character, because you were never invested in him. Had it not been a true story, one would call it bogus to show that a criminal can roam free for nearly twenty years and the intelligence Bureau simply believed that he is on their side.
Johnny Depp is the perfect fit as Jimmy Bulger. No doubting that. And he needs to thank director Scott Cooper for making him look even more menacing on screen. Scott uses the actor’s silhouette, he veils him in the dark and works with Johnny’s expressive eyes to convey even more darkness to Bulger. Scott Cooper gives us a gangster horror movie and that is such a welcome change during times of superheroes, gargantuan machines and fast automobiles. The credit scenes are sure not to be missed as they describe what eventually happened to the gang and mainly Jimmy Bulger, the real ones that is.
Why we think the movie will get entry into the Oscars:
Johnny Depp is back:(let me write this part as a fanboy) how many of us have seen Johnny’s last movie Mortdecai. We had almost resigned to the fact that the Johhny Depp era is flickering. But thanks to Scott Cooper, we have this powerful comeback of sorts of the captain we all love. He gets almost all the notes correct and shows a versatility which had been missing. We were expecting you Johnny.
The Story—We have had romantic movies, comedies, horror flicks and superheros. We now have a gangster horror movie to round up 2015. The fact that this is a real story and had occurred not so long ago baffles the audience. During times of central intelligence and technological mapping of criminals, how Bulger could run his show is a spectacle to be crafted into cinema. And Scott Cooper succeeds in doing so.
Boston— Most of the gangster movies with Boston as a background have got Oscar nominations, think The Departed, The Town. It seems the city plays perfect foil for shooting complex individual stories around criminals. Hopefully the lucky charm continues this year as well.
Categories in which the movie may get recognized:
Best Film:Although it is a flawed movie, but the treatment alone may take it one step closer to the black statuette. Also, the casting is spot on and everyone delivers measured performances which only increases its chances.
Best Actor: Johnny Depp explores a new territory. And we are not complaining. Scott Cooper invests a lot in making Johnny fearsome, giving him scenes and dialogues to create a web of fear around the audience.
Best Make-up—Some will disagree with us on this. But we found the make-up and hairstyling to be added weapons for the actors to convincingly portray their characters. And after you watch the credit scenes, you will appreciate the similarity in looks of the real and reel criminals.
gobblpoint: Johnny Depp as a gangster. Benedict Cumberbatch (we seriously can never have enough of this fine actor). True story. And lets accept, we sometimes enjoy watching bad boys hoodwinking the suited and booted bureaus and the police.
Disclaimer: The photographs used in this blog are the sole property of the makers of this film and are not owned by us in any form.