Boston was readying for the release of another entry into the James Bulger cultural cannon this week. “Black Mass,” the latest film to put the notorious mobster in a lead role, was set to hit theatres this upcoming weekend.
To mark the occasion, a red carpet rollout was scheduled for Tuesday night at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. Expected to attend the special screening: stars Johnny Depp, Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson and more, plus director Scott Cooper and authors Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neil, who penned the book on which the movie is based.
Metro got a preview of the film at a media screening, and it’s as gritty as one might imagine. Depp as Bulger is pure villainy, as deeply antiheroic as any of the Marvel bad guys - with the make-up or masks replaced with a hardened visage, a slicked back blond wig and piercing blue contact lenses that make the A-lister’s eyes look impossibly big.
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The murders attributed to Bulger and his associates – for which he is now serving twin life sentences – are there for the viewing, gory details and all. In “Black Mass,” the story follows FBI agent John Connolly and his downfall most closely, while Bulger plays the monster - humanized in some scenes with his mom, an elderly acquaintance and his late son.
The movie was among the most anticipated of the season, but Bostonians who spoke with Metro on Monday had mixed reactions to the upcoming premiere.
“I lived through it. I don’t need to see a Hollywood version of it,” said a woman named Joanne, standing outside the AMC Loews movie theatre next to Boston Common. She declined to give her last name.
“It’s not my kind of movie,” said Lisa Mula, a Somerville native who still lives in that city and remembers the Bulger reign well. “We had a gangland slaying in my neighborhood and it was one of Whitey’s guys.”
“It doesn’t intrigue me,” said Max Toussaint, a 22-year-old youth worker here from Maryland who said he wasn’t really familiar with the Bulger story, the way so many who grew up here are.
At Castle Island, a former Bulger haunt in Southie, most had nothing to say about the film’s release. One longtime local who declined to be quoted said in so many words that the infamous convicted killer wasn’t worth his time.
Younger, newer residents, though, said they were curious about the biopic and would probably buy a ticket.
“Now that I live in South Boston, I just want to get a sense of what it was like” in the days of the Winter Hill Gang, said Tamemr Yamany, 27, a new arrival to Southie from Manhattan.
“It’s a local story,” said Ricky Kelly, new to South Boston from Georgetown. He said he was excited to see the movie, adding, “I think [Johnny Depp] is great.”
Bulger’s blockbuster trial ended in Boston in 2013 when he was found guilty for his involvement in killing 11 people.