Sunday, September 20, 2015

Black Mass

Movie Name: Black Mass
Year of Release: 2015
Director: Scott Cooper
Stars: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemmons, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Sarsgaard, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Julianne Nicholson, Dakota Johnson, Corey Stoll, Juno Temple, W. Earl Brown, Bill Camp, David Harbour, Lonnie Farmer
Genre: Drama, Crime
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis & Review:
On his third feature, director Scott Cooper achieves something that his previous films only hinted at: something truly galvanizing and powerful. The film depicts the events that surrounded the life of convicted criminal James "Whitey" Bulger, a Boston based criminal, since 1975 throughout his apprehension in Santa Monica in 2011. The film depicts the progression of Bulger's criminal doings in South Boston, and his ongoing relationship with the FBI, in the capacity of informant, and how he manipulated the situation in order to get traction over his rivals and dominate the Boston criminal underground. In the process, Bulger's brother, a politician of the highest level also got dragged into the situation.
Scott Cooper, himself an actor, has built a directorial career thus far anchored in stories that though not priming for originality, allow for actors to bring their characters to life. This has allowed for his films to have an inner life that the contrived screenplays only hint at (that was the case for instance of "Out of the Furnace"). His films feel very much indebted to the 70s directors that he seems to try to emulate, such as Sidney Lumet. "Black Mass" may be his best feature yet: the director focuses on a specific time frame in the life of a well known criminal, James Bulger, and how his ongoing relationship with the FBI allowed him to have considerable power over the Boston area. The relationships between the characters are sufficiently drawn out to understand the neighborhood mentality and the allegiances made between these endless array of criminals and of course, the agents tracking them. There are influences of Sidney Lumet, but also and of course, of Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas", though Scott Cooper has a truly fantastic and indelible ace with the performance of Johnny Depp, who creates a character who is reptilian, menacing and controlled in every nuance. It's a fantastic portrayal, never falling into caricature. The rest of the cast is equally top notch, with highlights going to Joel Edgerton and Julianne Nicholson. A riveting film worth watching.