Depp’s Ominous Presence in “Black Mass”

Former organized crime mob boss, Whitey Bulger, has a story made for Hollywood. Director Scott Cooper, known for “Out of the Furnace” and “Crazy Heart,” has brought Bulger’s story to the big screen with Johnny Depp as Bulger and Benedict Cumberbatch as Bulger’s brother, Billy.  The cast features other stars such as Joel Edgerton, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, and Peter Sarsgaard. “Black Mass” premiered on September 18.

Bulger’s infamous criminal mischief began when he was only 14, but as the years crept on, Bulger was no long mischievous, but murderous. Bulger’s first crime was a petty stealing charge, however states Bulger’s “… criminal record continued to escalate from there. As a youth, he was arrested for larceny, forgery, assault and battery, and armed robbery and served five years in a juvenile reformatory.” Following his days in the juvenile reformatory, Bulger joined the Navy only to return home to a life of crime. Some years later, Bulger joined the Winter Hill Gang. Bulger was able to climb to the top quickly within the gang while murdering several people on his way there. During 1979, Bulger had pretty much reached the top of the gang, while also being an FBI informant between 1975 and 1990. His status as an FBI informant helped strengthen the Winter Hill Gang, but tear down rival gangs. This eventually came to an end when Bulger ended up at the center of a DEA investigation. After he learned of this, he fled and eventually returned, only to flee again. Bulger was on the run until 2011 when he was arrested. “Bulger faced a 33-count indictment, including money laundering, extortion, drug dealing, corrupting FBI and other law-enforcement officials and participating in 19 murders. He was also charged with federal racketeering for allegedly running a criminal enterprise from 1972 to 2000.” Bulger’s sentence of two life sentences plus five years was determined in 2013.

“Black Mass” starts off with an interview between Kevin Weeks, played by Jesse Plemons, and an FBI agent. Kevin Weeks is portrayed as Bulger’s right hand man after Bulger saw potential in him. In 1975, Bulger had to deal with the death of his son who suffered from Reye’s syndrome. After his death, Bulger was never the same and by 1981 he was rising within the mob in South Boston, also known as “southie”. By this time, Bulger became an FBI informant for business purposes, so he could retaliate against the Italian mob family, the Angiulo family. Bulger struck the informant deal with his brother’s former childhood friend turned FBI agent, John Connolly, played by Joel Edgerton. With Connolly’s help, Bulger was getting away with crimes more than ever before. Ten years later, in 1985, Bulger faced the death of his mother. Although Bulger had been putting hits on people and killing people all these years, the two personal deaths he faced only made him more murderous. Hundreds of crimes and many murders later, an FBI agent working with Bulger and Connolly confessed everything he knew. His confession put Connolly and a member of the Winter Hill Gang in jail, while Bulger fled.

The Winter Hill gang was portrayed as vicious and vulgar which seems true to what the actual gang was like. Depp did an excellent job portraying Bulger as terrifying, yet mesmerizing. Most scenes with Depp felt eerie and even uncomforting. Cumberbatch did the best he could, but his “Boston” accent fell short.

There are many reviews, but all of them acknowledge Depp’s phenomenal , and hint that an Oscar nomination is already being made. While all of the reviews are interesting, the most astounding review comes from James “Whitey” Bulger himself and his defense attorney, Hank Brennan. Depp attempted to reach out to Bulger before he filming, but the interest was not returned. Brennan told PEOPLE magazine “Johnny Depp might as well have been playing the Mad Hatter all over again as far as James Bulger is concerned”. Depp had to learn his role primarily from real life footage, since the real thing was going to be of no help.

Many viewers took to Twitter to express their love or hatred for the film. Below are just a few reviews from Twitter:

“Black Mass” is currently playing at the Country Club Cinemas in LaVale.

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