Alternative Movie Review: “Black Mass”

Biographical films are all the rage nowadays. They can be either good or bad. Occasionally you have impactful films, such as “12 Years A Slave,” “Belle,” and “Walk The Line.” Other times you are stuck with box office bombs like “Sylvia,” “J. Edgar,” or “Jobs.” “Black Mass” is neither of those things, and it misses the mark in more ways than one. Johnny Depp breaks away from his love affair with Tim Burton to portray James “Whitey” Bulger, one of the most notorious mobsters in history. Depp dons prosthetics and a pair of contact lenses that make him look almost inhuman, but it fits the character well, as he does play a psychopath. But even his stellar performance cannot save this film from sinking beneath the waves of biopics from this past decade.

Watching “Black Mass” is like being given a set of puzzle pieces, trying to build out as much of the puzzle as possible, and then finding out that you cannot fit all the pieces together. The film never quite knows what it wants to be. Am I watching a drama? Am I watching a crime caper? Am I on something? The film also does not give any context as to who Bulger is and why he does what he does. Benadryl Cucumbersnatch — I mean Benedict Cumberbatch — gives a passable performance as Bulger’s brother William. When you are casting the brother of a man that makes you want to regurgitate, you choose the closest thing to a lizard that you can find. Jesse Plemons (Meth Damon as he is known in some circles), soon to be seen alongside the always pleasant Kirsten Dunst (yasss Queen Kiki!) in the FX drama “Fargo,” gives a relatively good performance as

Kevin Weeks, former protégé-henchman to Bulger. Rounding out the rest of the cast are “Fifty Shades” star and product of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson’s nepotism (oh hey Bryce Dallas Howard girlfriend!!!) Dakota Johnson as Bulger’s much younger girlfriend Lindsay Cyr. No, seriously, they pulled a Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle” with this one, and it still manages to come off just as bad. (In real life, Lindsay Cyr had a love child with Bulger when she was 21 and he was 37.)

The film tries to make itself look better, but fails miserably. Johnny Depp is basically playing Ray Liotta playing Whitey Bulger with a sprinkle of Robert DeNiro thrown into the mix, which does not translate well on screen. The film is clunky and disjointed, with plenty of pace and editing issues. It made me want to crawl into a hole. The last time I saw a film this bad in theaters was when my grandmother and I went and saw “The Devil Inside.” The ending of the film made her so mad that she ran to the box office and attempted to strangle the ticket clerk. Johnny Depp explained at the Boston premiere of the film that he sympathized with Whitey Bulger, and that he feels the man has a “kind heart.” That would be like me saying that Michelle Pfeiffer and Paul Rudd are two of the most hideous people alive; it is simply not true. Bulger is a murderer, so do not idolize him. It is as if there is a giant sign above his cell saying “Pure Evil.” In closing, I would like to say that this film did have some potential, but if we are being honest, I have passed kidney stones more painful than this film.

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