Title: Black Mass
Director: Scott Cooper
Starring: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Dakota Johnson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon, Corey Stall, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple.
‘Black Mass’ brings to the big screen the true story of James “Whitey” Bulger, a prominent leader of the Irish-American Winter Hill Gang in South Boston, who made a secret alliance with FBI agent John Connolly, which lasted for 30 years.
Scott Cooper seemed to have an easy road to travel for the making of this flick: an engaging story and a fantastic ensemble of talented Hollywood stars (Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Dakota Johnson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon, Corey Stall, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple). But the script by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth merely collects facts and characters diligently, and squishes them together without providing any emotional nuance to their persona. Characters are utterly two-dimensional: their actions correspond to truth but their personalities are monochrome stereotypes.
The action that portrays the unholy alliance between the FBI and the Irish Mob, that has the goal of taking down a Mafia family, is somehow ennobled by Masanobu Takayanagi’s cinematography. The Japanese director of photography, whose works include ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, manages to portray the late 70s and 80s with nostalgia. But the make-up department messes up the magic of the period recreation, by transforming Johnny Depp’s Bulger in a Tim Burton creature with vampire aquamarine contact lens and grotesquely ridiculous wounds.
An interesting issue that is brought to attention by the story of ‘Black Mass’ is the way gangsters are strongly intertwined with enforcement officials, that should represent law and order. Cops and robbers are no different: both are parasites created by agencies of the state. Nevertheless, despite this unusual (but not unique) element in the compelling true crime drama, won’t save ‘Black Mass’ from getting swept away into oblivion, as many other movies of this genre.
Written by: Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi