Black Mass review: ‘The best we’ve seen of Depp this decade’

16:00 30 November 2015

Johnny Depp in Black Mass. Picture: Warner Bros. Pictures

Johnny Depp in Black Mass. Picture: Warner Bros. Pictures


Johnny Depp looks revitalised in this rather glamorised vision of a Goodfellas-esque Mafia story, says Michael Joyce.

Black Mass is a slick crime drama with a testosterone-heavy cast all trying to put 97 different inflections to the phrase mother******. It’s all quality stuff yet still feels like a tired shake down, a Quitegoodfellas. Depp plays notorious gangster/ FBI informant Whitey Bulger, who got lucky in the ‘70s when a friend from school days, Connolly (Edgerton), returns to South Boston as a big time FBI agent. With a headfull of baloney about de loyalty of de streets and perhaps a little star struck at, he supposes, dealing with a childhood idol on equal terms, he suggests they team up to defeat the local Mafia. Bolger uses the arrangement to deal with the competition and run wild and be bloodthirsty and callous, while all the time his inside man is protecting him and pre warning him of any FBI investigation.

The rats get capped, everybody loves their mum and overdoes the local accent, and they sit around a kitchen table with some beers and talk about the old days – eh, we woz just kids den, look at us now. There is even a “What do you mean funny? Funny how?” speech.

It’s one of those gangster films that claims to show us a deglamorised vision of crime while obviously doing the opposite, if only by having Depp in the lead role, albeit with a receding hairline. Depp, more energised than he’s been in at least half a decade, provides the film with what spark it has, though the satanic menace he gives Bulger probably flatters the real life figure. But then so does making a film about him.

Rating: 3/5

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