Director: Scott Cooper
Stars: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton
2 (out of 5) Globes
Every now and then during the “Whitey” Bulger movie “Black Mass” you might think you’re watching an underworld classic. The tone is somber and heavy, not Scorsese knockoff-cool. An all-star cast of great actors swing by in every scene to ooze gravitas and sliminess. You might even be able to forgive their dodgy Boston accents, which veer drunkenly all over the place, sometimes in the same sentence. And you might even convince yourself that the scenes they’re in aren’t hoaringly expository yet still hard to parse, or that the screenplay itself isn’t a shambling mess, trying to cram decades of violence, corruption and general ne’er-do-well-ism into a mere hair over two hours. It winds up a film that feels at once rushed and slow, going nowhere but not fast.
Credit where credit’s due: it doesn’t take the easy way in. It could have simply zeroed in on the Boston crime lord himself, played by Johnny Depp. It could have also easily followed John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), the fed who found himself corrupted by — and eventually jailed for — his ties to Bulger’s unit. Both may have been too obvious entrypoints, and what “Black Mass” does instead is hypothetically noble, and maybe crazily ambitious given the running time. It opens with one of Bulger’s associates, Kevin Weeks (Jesse Plemons, who, as always, so looks and sounds like Matt Damon it’s inexplicable he’s not a relation), ratting him out, while averring that he’s no rat. But Kevin soon disappears into the background, as he is one of many turning stool pigeon. The idea is a sound one: take a broader view of the Bulger’s empire and the government agencies who should have stopped him but, because he was technically an informant, could not.