James J. “Whitey” Bulger is one of the most notorious gangsters in American history. He is responsible for at least 19 murders plus extortion, racketeering, and drug trafficking. With Steve Flemmi and Kevin Weeks by his side, Bulger and The Winter Hill Gang terrorized South Boston for decades. The actual events of Whitey Bulger's life are so damn interesting that a Hollywood version of his life should have given us a better movie than the final product of Black Mass.
Black Mass is directed by Scott Cooper. The film uses the same techniques that Cooper has used on Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace, his first two feature films, and Cooper's fingerprints are very much on all three of his movies. All three films are methodically paced, bleak-looking, character-driven, and frankly often times outright boring. I actually enjoyed Out of the Furance, but I understand its 53% Rotten Tomatoes score. Crazy Heart, despite being an excellent showcase for Jeff Bridges' talent, is a dull and meandering film. Black Mass pulls a little bit from both of Cooper's previous films as this is an excellent showcase for Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger but moves with a sense of purpose from scene to scene. All three of Cooper's films are extremely character-driven, often times to the story's detriment. That was the case here with Black Mass as this story deserves an action-packed, fast pace script. There was no reason Black Mass couldn't be this generation's Goodfellas- interesting characters that were fun to be with that, while still being plot driven, never lost sight of its characters. Unfortunately, I'll have to "settle" for this generation's actual version of the Whitey Bulger story- The Departed.