Black Mass

Peabody award winning film maker Joe Berlinger’s high profile documentary, “Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger”, kicks off with a frightening tale of extortion. South Bostoner, “Southie”, Stephen Rakes recounts the ominous visit from Bulger and his henchman, Kevin Weeks, and their murderous threats against him and his family. Weeks and his wife had just opened a liquor store that Whitey Bulger “insisted” be-coming a “partner” in. With the life of his family, particularly his two young daughters at stake, Weeks had no choice but to comply.
It’s so unfortunate that despite Whitey Bulger’s savage, merciless actions, not to mention money laundering, racketeering, and drug trafficking, our own FBI forged an “alliance” with a gangster so notorious, he moved up second to Osama Bin Laden on their most wanted list. Prayerfully they have learned that making a deal with the devil has tragic consequences. In any case, Bulger and the FBI was more than ready for big screen treatment.
After a few cinematic missfires i.e. Transcendence, but especially Mortdecai, the incredibly versatile Johnny Depp is back in superb form as the titular Irish gangster James “Whitey” Bulger in director Scott Cooper”s “Black Mass.” Indeed, according to Entertainment Weekly, Depp’s makeup was so impeccable, that some on the film set who knew Bulger intimately could not even look at him. Maybe it was like looking at a condemned demon who had been resurrected.
Black Mass kicks off appropriately near the end, with seriously intense close ups of a recording cassette tape and FBI agent Eric Olsen’s interrogation of Bulger’s former faithful right hand Kevin Weeks (Jesse Plemons). Without flinching, Olsen asks point blank what Weeks knows about the Boston Winter Hill Gang, and James Whitey Bulger. Quite an irony since it was the FBI who practically sanctioned all of Whitey’s “activities” in exchange for “information” on the Italian Mafia.
Properly based on two similarly titled books by Gerard O’Neil and Dick Lehr, and scripted by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth, Black Mass takes you on an incredible, yet true story on how one man personified the univer-sal warning “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Bulger went from a small time gang thug, to becoming one of the most dangerous men in America, literally controlling the city of Boston uninhibited.
Government connections begin with FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) who knew Whitey when they were kids. He was kind of in awe of him too, which would explain why he catered to him so much as a federal agent.Armed with the age old Machiavellian adage “The end justifies the means”, Connolly strikes up a makeshift deal with his fellow Southie to inform on the Mafia in their efforts to take them down – in exchange for whatever Bulger wants. He thoroughly convinces his initially reluctant boss Charlie McGuire (Kevin Bacon) to go along.
Bulger had another ace in the form of his brother, Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch), the most powerful U.S. Senator in Massachusetts. Between him and the Bureau’s free pass, Whitey was able to perform similar actions referred to in John 10:10. To steal, kill and destroy. It was really no wonder that it took 16 years to finally capture him so he could face justice.
Support from Edgerton’s Connolly, his wife Marianne played by Julianne Nicholson, to Juno Temple’s unsuspecting Deborah Hussey are all award worthy. But Black Mass is expressly Johnny Depp’s pic, stealing every scene, forcing you to forget any missteps he has made in his career, and pro-ving once more how so incredibly adaptable he is.

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