London Film Festival 2015: Black Mass

Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon – an unlikely Hollywood trio but one that shines in Black Mass- the tale of the unholy alliance between the FBI and Whitey Bulger- one of the most notorious gangsters in US history. It’s the kind of script that invites method actors to bring their toys to the playground and these boys do not disappoint!

It’s a well-known story that for more than a decade—until his capture in 2011—Boston’s most infamous crime lord, James “Whitey” Bulger, was hunted by the FBI, surpassed only by Osama Bin Laden at the top of the Bureau’s Most Wanted List. But the ironic fact is that Bulger might never have risen to the level of power he achieved were it not for the aid and abetment of those naughty boys at the FBI.

“Black Mass” explores how a deal between ruthless gangster Whitey Bulger and FBI Agent John Connolly enabled Bulger to expand his criminal empire with complete impunity, as 3 Connolly—blinded by his own ambition—shielded him from investigation, ignoring the rising body count.


Corrupt agent Connolly had known Whitey (Depp)  and his brother, Billy Bulger (Cumberbatch) since they were nippers growing up South Boston, known as ‘Southie’ and demonstrates a bond between two brothers, who could not have been more like chalk and cheese (some mothers do av’ um)  alongside John Connolly, who understood the power of the Bulger clan and the doors they could open.

Social climber Connolly in true play ground style predictably allowed Bulger to run amok in the city because he’d wanted to be in Whitey’s good books ever since the hierarchy of scraped knees and scraps from the streets of childhood.

It’s a gritty story in itself but what brings this tale to life is the expert casting that lifts it from a black and white news story to a full colour collage of characters. There are plain movie stars and then the ones that astound and this film is full of the latter.


Depp has always been one to take on a ‘character’ but this is one that cannot be compared to any of his former glory. A complete unrecognisable transformation from a method actor who can go from Sweeny Todd to street rat in a heartbeat. Credit here should also go to Dakota Johnson taking on the role of the mother of his child. Through her short but emotive scenes she is very much the heartbeat of the movie contrasting the violent and power hungry scenes with a legitimate and gentle mother’s love.

In the flesh life Depp and Cumberbacht would never make believable brothers but the talent from such actors boosts a chemistry that plays tricks on your eyes to believe that they could never not have shared the same womb despite their opposing life choices.

It’s a gritty and in times difficult watch but you know they’re doing it well when they rope Juno Temple in to play a hooker…

Dry wit brings several scenes of comic relief and makes the whole thing seem remarkably human-  because it is a true story after all…

It’s a difficult watch but as far as adaptations go one that should be reverend.

But ladies don’t go and see it for the line-up of totty, the boys are doing business and working hard to not look hot 😉