The true story of one of America's most violent and infamous gangsters, Whitey Bulger. Johnny Depp stars as Bulger, who was the brother of a state senator and was eventually convinced to wear a wire for the FBI to bring down the Italian mafia in Boston after they invaded his territory. Scott Cooper directs, with Mark Mallouk penning the screenplay based on Dick Lehr and Gerald O'Neill's 2001 best-seller Black Mass: The True Story of An Unholy Alliance Between The FBI and The Irish Mob.~Daniel Gelb
Theatrical review. Possible spoilers. Johnny Depp is no stranger to playing notorious criminals. Even discounting Captain Jack Sparrow, he was John Dillinger in 2009's "Public Enemies." Here he plays a more modern gangster, James Bulger. Set at the height of Bulger's power in Boston of the late 1970's and early 80's, Depp provides a masterful portrayal of the criminal psychopath.
At the suggestion of an ambitious FBI agent, John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), Bulger strikes an unholy alliance suggested by the title. Connolly and Bulger were childhood friends. Bulger will provide inside info on the Italian Cosa Nostra who control crime in North Boston. In return, Connolly will turn the other way when it comes to his reign in the South. The only proviso, no killing. Bulger who hates to be called - his friends call him Jimmy - doesn't keep his promise. (Note: We never learn why he was called by the FBI.) He has no tolerance for what he considers misbehavior from his own gang, let alone those who get in his way.
As usual, with characters like this, Bulger has another side. In one scene, he escorts an elderly woman from his old neighborhood to her apartment. She says, "You're such a nice boy." He also loves his young son, Douglas (Luke Ryan). In a dinner time scene with his girlfriend, Lindsey (Dakota Johnson) and mother of Douglas, he confronts his son who has gotten into trouble at school for fighting. He tells the boy in front of the frustrated Lindsey, that his mistake wasn't the fighting, it was that he did it in front of others. It's all about the time and place, says Jimmy.
Bulger has few characteristics that are noteworthy other than he has an extremely violent streak and insists that his underlings (Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane) be equally brutal. The film is equally contemptuous about Connolly who sees bringing down the Sicilians an important step in his career and those around him. Not so sure are some of his partners and certainly his wife, Marianne, brilliantly played by Julianne Nicholson ("August: Osage County"). In a great scene at the Connolly home where Bulger is attending, `Whitey' confronts Marianne who is ensconced in her bedroom not wanting to associate with Bulger. It is tense, creepy and scary as heck.
The film is supported by an excellent cast. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Jimmy's younger brother Billy, a state senator; Kevin Bacon is Connolly's boss, Charles McGuire; Adam Scott and David Harbour play Connolly's FBI partners. Scott Cooper guides an overloaded cast through some terrific scenes and well-documented conclusion to Bulger's reign of terror in Boston and Miami. The look of the film is authentic and Depp has his best role in many years. Recommended.
The film tells the true story of Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger, played by a heavily made up Johnny Depp, who has been nominated for Best Actor for his performance by the Screen Actors Guild.
The film begins in 1975. In South Boston, Jimmy’s empire includes drugs, prostitution and racketeering. His chief rival is Jerry Angiulo, who heads the Italian mafia, a prime target of the FBI. Jimmy Connolly, well played by Joel Edgerton, who wrote, directed and starred as Gordo in 2015’s excellent The Gift, is an FBI agent and childhood friend of Whitey. He owes Whitey for protecting him when they were kids. He proposes a secret arrangement that will benefit Whitey by allowing him to serve as an FBI informant on the Italian mafia, while they look the other way on his illegal activities. As Connolly gets in deeper and deeper with Whitey, we see him begin to dress, act and even walk differently, and have relationship difficulties with his boss (Kevin Bacon) and wife Marianne (Julianne Nicholson). Fellow-agent John Morris (David Harbour) works with Connelly on this arrangement for several years until he can take it no longer. Lead Prosecutor Fred Wyshak (Corey Stoll from House of Cards) can’t figure out why Bulger and his group continues to rule Boston right under the nose of the FBI.
The film is told in flashbacks as Bulger’s inner circle Kevin Weeks (Jesse Plemons), Steve Flemmi (Rory Cochrane) and John Martorano (W. Earl Brown), to lessen their sentences, years later provide the FBI with information about Whitey. Bulger is portrayed as a brutal monster, showing kindness only to his card-cheating mother, girlfriend (Dakota Johnson), his young son (Luke Ryan), and Massachusetts State Senator and University President brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Imitation Game). This is an amazing true story.
Bulger would become number two (behind only Osama bin Laden) on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list during the 16 years he was in hiding before his capture in California in 2011.
It features a strong cast, led by Depp, who continues to show his versatility as an actor, and the multi-talented Edgerton, who builds on his critically acclaimed work in The Gift.
I would recommend this to a friend
Rated 4 out of 5 stars
A Steak Out of This World
If you've seen the first trailer you'll know what the title of this reviews refers to and yes, the scene was even better in the final film. Depp is magnificent as Whitey Bulger, his scary dead eyes staring into your soul as you watch his story unfold in a dark and glamour-free fashion thankfully. Joel Edgerton's performance is also a diamond as FBI agent john Connolly who makes a deal with the devil he grew up with to bring down the local Italian Mafia family even it means turning a blind eye to Bulger murdering his way to the top. The film sadly isn't pefect due to pacing issues mostly caused by a story that feels like key parts of the film were cut out of the final product which leaves it overall feeling like it lacks cohesiveness at times. But the film is still carried by the performances and gloomy atmosphere it has lacking the glitz and as mentioned earlier glamour of a lot of other American gangster films. The special features while lacking deleted scenes are decent enough with a few quick documentaries from Warner on the film and a lengthy one on the hunt for Bulger after the film's events. Not a recommendation to everyone as I'd say how much a fan you are of Depp or the genre are really what will make or break the film for you.
When released this movie didn't get the greatest reviews. With Best Buy offering this at a very low price I purchased the Blu-Ray and am very glad I did. Johnny Depp does an excellent job portraying Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger. It doesn't delve very deeply into what drove him to be so viscious and since it was made before his capture (and recent demise), the story is of course incomplete.
The Blu-Ray video and audio are good, not outstanding but in no way detract from enjoyable viewing. All Depp fans should buy it.
This story about Whitey Bulger and the Winter Hill Gang is spot on. It is played well by Johnny Depp and he is very convincing as Bulger, an murderous scoundrel. I was particularly interested in the part about the Roger Wheeler murder as I was a Tulsa Police Officer at the time an my partner became Mrs. Wheeler's body guard after Roger was murdered in the parking lot of the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa because he wouldn't allow the Winter Hill gang to infiltrate and control the World High Alai sports in Florida that Wheeler owned. There are also interviews with some of the Tulsa detectives who worked the case for years, even thought the FBI knew who the killer was but covered it up and impeded the investigation since Bulger was an informant. I highly recommend this movie!
Johnny Depp continues to impress with his ability to transform himself fully into a character he portrays. The cold and calculating ways he portrays in Black Mass demonstrates his vast acting ability. The plot is a bit slow at times, and that's the only reason I didn't give this movie a 5-star rating.