In Black Mass, Johnny Depp has evil down cold



Quite the block in South Boston that was that gave the world the Bulger brothers and John Connolly. Black Mass tells the tale with a deep and horrible chill.

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?


29 thoughts on “In Black Mass, Johnny Depp has evil down cold

  1. Sounds really good Mark.It is true that there is often only a shading in the difference between a crook and a “good” guy. Like the priest in a poor African country who befriends the warlord in order to save his people from certain death. What favors moving shipments or turning a back on certain activities constitute evil when the outcome is counted in lives saved?

    One of my favorite snitches is the old black man that is sometimes used by Detective Rizzoli in the series Rizzoli and Isles. You have to root for him , he is so disingenuous. That also answers the question of my favorite TV cop – Jane Rizzoli. I do like the “Blue Bloods” – all the characters are good on that show, especially Danny the detective.

    I know a doctor who grew up in a rough neighborhood and counts a number of bad actors as old friends.

    Interesting post Mark. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like every character in Rizzoli and Isles, Paul. That and TNT-mate Major Crimes are two of my favorite procedurals on the air these days for their well-done script writing and acting, both. They delve into the dodging line between the good guy and the bad guy. Thanks for bringing up your favorite show.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This film looks too dark for me, but The Mister will see it, I’m sure.
    I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a snitch I like…can’t think of any. It’s early, lol, and I can only think of snitches I don’t like. The Negotiator is an excellent cop movie, Samuel Jackson, underdog. Mmhm.


  3. I wanted to take a rare opportunity to go see this one on my birthday (I had the day off and both kids in school) but it didn’t release into a few days after. Happily, this is one my son wants to see as well so it’s on the old Netflix queue. It may be a little much for my daughter but I have a feeling that if she’s not interested she’ll wander off to her room


  4. I’ll see this. Of course, no matter the review, I’ll see Depp. Have loved him and his work…forever, it seems. I don’t think there’s a part he cannot conquer. I like the compelling true story here as well. Thanks, Mark. 😊


  5. I watched a show on this Bulger guy yesterday and how he claims he was never the snitch (he considered snitching a sin so much worse than murder and all that other horrible stuff he was accused of) and if the public needs to look for the bad guys they should turn to their government who according to this show is full of people without integrity. The movie sounds fascinating.


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