Movie: Black Mass
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Review: “Truth is, a lot of people were in awe of Jimmy in the neighborhood.” So states the narrator, one of the many South Boston (Southie) low level young criminals who worked for, or were charmed by the head of the Winter Hill Gang, James “Whitey” Bulger. The friends and associates of Bulger were careful to call him Jimmy; apparently Bulger wasn’t fond of the nickname Whitey which came about because of his hair.
Jimmy Bulger (Johnny Depp) was a minor legend in South Boston in the 1970s and 1980s. He likely would have stayed a small time gangster except for childhood pal John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who just happened to be a special agent for the FBI. Connolly let it be known to Bulger that the FBI would be eternally grateful if he could just give them some solid leads on the Patriarcas mafia family. Jimmy shrewdly agreed to help his old buddy, as long as the FBI turned a blind eye to what his gang was up to. It has been said that when you sup with the devil, be sure to use a long spoon. It became increasing clear to the Boston office of the FBI, to special agent Charles McGuire (Kevin Bacon), and US Attorney Fred Wyshak (Corey Stoll), that after a decade of allowing Jimmy Bolger free rein to act as he pleased, that they were in fact complicit in Bulger’s rise to be the primary crime lord in Boston.
This is a very good, very dark film. The fact that it is based on actual events is somewhat mind-blowing. Johnny Depp is nothing short of mesmerizing in his portrayal of Jimmy Bulger. He shows the charismatic side of the man, but also the menacing side of a calculating criminal who could erupt in violence at any moment. It is a fascinating story, and almost beggars belief in how law enforcement allowed this man such latitude for so long. Depp is a lock for a Best Actor Oscar nomination; very likely the film gets a Best Picture nod as well. Brilliant supporting cast as well, including Benedict Cumberbatch as Billy Bulger, brother to Jimmy.
Huh? What the….: Sorry, but no FBI special agents in the 1980s would have been allowed to have hair going over their ears.
Dialogue Nuggets: “In Southie, we went straight from playing cops and robbers on the playground to doing it in real life.”
Jimmy Bulger to son: “You did not get into trouble for punching that sneaky little brat. You got in trouble because people saw you punch him. If nobody sees it, it didn’t happen.”
John Connolly to fellow agents – “If we are serious about bringing down the Italians, Jimmy is the only way.”
Jimmy to gang – “We get the FBI to protect us and fight our wars, while we do whatever the f**k we want.”
Jimmy to FBI agent at dinner – “You spill a family secret recipe to me today, maybe you spill a secret about me tomorrow.”