The Movie: 8/10
It’s dark and bleak, the depths of the human mind…oh you thought I meant this movie? Well, it does apply. Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton are the tip of the iceberg of a solid cast who bring us a tale of men being dicks. Yes, it boils down to that really. Men being “the big man”, showing off, being greedy, wanting love, wanting respect, wanting to show off. From the mob boss (Depp) to the Senator (Sherlock Holmes), and all the FBI agents mixed in for good measure, they all want to play the role of being something. The thing is, they don’t see that they are struggling to be thugs, bullies, thieves, liars, murderers, and creeps. Did I mention that this is an awesome film? I loved it. It’s uncomfortable, eye-opening, and made me make THAT face several times. That face we all make when someone is being such a vile human being (even though it’s fiction) our own humanness recoils and we hold our breath until something relieves the tension.
From the story of Whitey Bulger becoming a crime jerk in Boston, to the parallel story of his childhood friend becoming a high-ranking agent in the FBI, we follow the waves of ego and greed to their logical conclusions. I do think that every person does an amazing job of holding the line between making these people believable, terrible, and not a caricature of who they could be. I don’t know what a good Boston accent is, so these are fine with me. I’m sure someone will find fault, but I was distracted enough by all the other stuff to not focus too much on that detail. There are menacing characters, but in subtle ways. Whitey’s minions just get on with the tasks at hand, killing, stealing, intimidating, and occasionally putting away groceries for old ladies. They are the masters of their neighborhood, and as we all know that leads to a common thug syndrome, “getting too big for your britches”. Which does remind us that even if we are in a little bit of awe about the lifestyle of people who literally just do what they want, disregard the law and common decency, it’s all just shit. They are terrible horrible human beings and the way they create them in this movie is convincing in a way that makes me want to see comedies from each of them to wash the taste of dirty criminal out of my movie watching mouth (ick, sounds weird).
It doesn’t shy away from the big bad wolf of these characters’ (and their real life inspirations) darkest moments of murder, violence, and intimidating the people around them. That means if you like happy happy stories about criminals that only hint at their evil doings, this ain’t the movie for you.
The sets and wardrobe are convincing in a way that just melts into the story which is good and kind of sad at the same time. I didn’t absorb enough of the 70’s/80’s goodness because I was lost in the story. I would say that’s pretty good though, to get transported in time and just being convinced of that whole world so much it doesn’t stand out. Some movies are HOLLYWOOD period pieces where every stitch of clothing and set prop remind you loudly and with a certain boldness that you are being told a story of a different time. I like that too, but in this case the story and the performances overrode the charm of the day.
Overall Black Mass is a quality film that I highly recommend for a weekend viewing. Just be sure to follow it up with something light and wacky like Pirates of the Caribbean:)
- Johnny Depp: Becoming Whitey Bulger (12 Minutes) – Depp transformed himself using makeup and prosthetic pieces to become Whitey Bulger. Here we see that process with interviews from the main cast.
- Black Mass: Deepest Cover Darkest Crime (23 Minutes) – Interviews with the main cast about the real life story and what it takes to translate it to film. Everyone here seems very enthusiastic and genuinely fascinated with the subject matter.
- The Manhunt For Whitey Bulger (1 Hour) – A feature-length documentary written and directed by Constantine Nasr which tells the entire true story. This is the kind of extra a movie like this needs and kudos to Warner for including it on the disc.
- DVD & UV Digital Copy
Cover Art and Menus: 8/10
I like this cover. I’m not sure I would have it as a poster, I mean, it is just Johnny Depp as an aging balding man, but it represents the story well.
Audio & Video: 7/10
Warner’s 1080P AVC encoded transfer is bright, sharp and detailed like most of today’s AAA films. If I have an issue here the single disc features over an hour and a half of extras in HD which takes away from the bit rate of the movie. I would prefer the extras on a separate disc but that is not how this worked out. Black levels are good though but the film grain here is lost a little due to the lower bit rate. Black Mass is a good-looking movie by design but the transfer lets it down a little.
For a Gangster movie Black Mass is a quiet, brooding piece with very little in the way of action. The few gunshots that are in the film echo out with pinpoint accuracy. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track handles dialog perfectly though with dialog crisp and clear in the center speaker. Junkie XL provides the score but it’s not his usual electronic stuff more orchestral in nature.
Overall Score 8/10