Black Mass (2015)
January 23, 2016 2:05 PM - Subscribe

The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.
posted by ellieBOA (2 comments total)
Like many reviewers have noted, Black mass suffers from the comparison to Scorsese's Goodfellas and The departed (and the latter has Jack Nicholson basically playing Whitey Bulger). The "secret family recipe" scene even echoes the "funny how" scene in Goodfellas. And indeed, Black mass feels more pedestrian than Scorsese's epics: it's about a bunch of small-time sociopaths murdering (mostly) other sociopaths and doing banal criminal things in between. All in all it's a good crime movie with good performances from Depp and co, but it lacks a spark. Which raises an interesting question: is it possible to make a movie about criminal figures that does not glamorize them and make them bigger than life? From the Godfather to Scarface, movies tend to pay lip service to the fact that such characters are actually horrible assholes. Black mass tries to deglamorize Bulger and his buddies (even physically, by showing their bad skin/hair/teeth), which is somehow refreshing, but with the exception of a couple of scenes where Depp gets actually creepy/scary, the result is that it's hard to care for those folks.
posted by elgilito at 5:22 AM on February 1, 2016

hey I just watched this on the airplane and it was much better than I expected (granted I was on the airplane).

Firstly I was relieved to note that the Boston accents were not the nails-on-a-chalkboard bad as they were in Mystic River.

Having vaguely heard of the brothers all my life but without paying too much attention to the details, I wasn't planning to see this but, airplane. I thought the film did a good job of exposing the tawdry life of the Boston mob. Nobody was living the high life on ill-gotten gains. They weren't even that smart. Whitey's first reaction to any threat was to have that person killed, even if it ultimately made the situation more threatening. He did luck out having a friend in the FBI to take down his competitors.

The fact that one brother was a well-placed politician and the other a notorious criminal was so embedded in our consciousness that it was just taken for granted but man, looking back, how bizarre was that?

Johnny Depp. Was nigh-on unrecognizable. Which was the point but he gave the impression he (Whitey) had already had extensive plastic surgery to avoid recognition. His taut face and pinpoint light eyes were just unnatural and creepy.

There were two brief shots that oddly resonated with me for some reason. One was Billy Bulger walking in the St Patrick's Day parade with his shillelagh, waving to his brother. The other was a rear view shot of Whitey driving his car with three of his goons as passengers. Something about the shape of his head, it was alien. I know this makes no sense.

The coda says Whitey was on the run for only 12 years. I thought it was much longer, like 20 years. That's how long it seemed when it was happening.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:45 AM on March 8, 2016

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