Thursday, 8 October 2015


When adapting for the screen, the luxury of so sensational a story as Whitey Bulger's is its expansiveness - years of source material from which to spin a new story, bound by narrative threads that needed such time to be fully revealed, and by an atmosphere that is mostly the filmmakers' own. The drawback is that such stories can feel rootless if those threads aren't as well-defined as the story's most salient details, or if the atmosphere makes the film seem vacuous and insubstantial. Black Mass indulges in the luxuries of Bulger's story as it suffers from those very drawbacks; crucially, it fails to convey in itself the significance of the Boston gangster's status during his criminal career, even as it depicts it with a reliable clarity and a suitably sombre tone. It winds up a routine gangster thriller, by and large, not particularly distinguishable due to its minor idiosyncrasies, since they're borrowed idiosyncrasies - this is cookie-cutter filmmaking, though not of the worst variety. Scott Cooper is gradually revealing himself to be a fairly average director, one with the basic directorial skills and a decent sense for sensibility, but too reliant on his performers, even if he may guide them well. Guidance or not, he can afford to rely on Johnny Depp as Bulger - the actor is Black Mass' raison d'etre, a riveting presence on the screen whether you can't take your eyes off his disarming makeup or just off the actor himself. He's a luxury this film lucked into, but the luxury is ours to behold.