Directed by Scott Cooper by a script from Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth, this crime drama documentary is 122 minutes full of high ambition and low behavior.
We meet Jimmy Bulger owning the streets of Southie, his neighborhood since he’s gotten out of prison. He’s either a small-town hood beloved for his loyalty to his Irish folks and the way things have been and, indeed, how he thinks they ought to stay and rides rough to make sure they do … or a thieving, lying, ruthless criminal with increasing ill intent and bad actions to get what he wants.
Into the scene is his brother, Billy, a state senator who tries to tip toe-around Jimmy’s behavior, and John Connolly, an FBI agent who wants to use Jimmy to bring down the Mafia that’s controlling North Boston.
Yeah, the agent, senator and crook grew up together, with all of that means in Southie. That bond does not erode over decades. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
Johnny Depp should be up for awards for his portrayal of Jimmy, a violent and murderous bastard to his enemies but good as gold to his Ma, his son, and his gang members who serve him well. No, as John warns his partners in the FBI, I wouldn’t want to call him Whitey, either. Not if you don’t want to end up buried under the bridge, as it turns out.
Joel Edgerton is less scary outwardly as Connolly, the suit-wearing agent with ever-growing ambition, but equally ambitious and loyal to his mission. Write him down for the best supporting category nomination. Benedict Cumberbatch is Kennedy-like as the state senator, political always with a guarded smile.
Kevin Bacon is finely dry as a higher-up Fed with a small but important role. Dakota Johnson and Julianne Nicholson make the most out of their parts as Jimmy and John’s mostly neglected women.
Depp is really good as a man that’s really bad, through and through, but always feels generally pleased with himself. Edgerton is good as a man that starts off as good and then loses his way as he hangs out more and more with the bad guy, all the while trying to talk himself and his whole world into believing that he’s doing the right thing.
It makes for an intriguing dynamic, from start to finish. There’s really nobody to root for on the screen. Not until the Feds move a new straight-shooter prosecutor into the building, anyway. You can look it up.
Can you ever cheer for the snitch in a crime movie, and if so, who’s your favorite tattle and why? Do you have a favorite movie cop, and if so, who and why? Do you know any unlikely grew-up-next-to-each-other professions?