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John Chard
Bulger's playing us, making a fool of the Bureau. We're in too deep, and he knows it! God help us all. Black Mass is the story of Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp), who was the brother of a state senator and the infamous violent leader of South Boston's Winter Hill Gang. It charts his criminal activities and his subsequent dealings with the FBI. Directed by Scott Cooper, Black Mass is one of those instances where a great lead performance deserves a better over all film. Depp literally inhabits the role of Bulger in a fully formed perf that reminds us of what a fine actor he can be. Unfortunately the edgy material to hand never really ignites in filmic form. Maybe we were spoilt by the offerings of Coppola and Scorsese previously? For this comes off as a cheap imitation of far greater films, with the crafters of the pic giving us something of a caricature piece. Although compelling as a lead character study, much of the narrative is rendered as playing it safe, putting emotive heart where it doesn't belong. Most of the support characters, and key to the story, are under developed, while the pace is decidedly attention sapping and not adroitly understated. Nevertheless, we do get good acting perfs to support Depp, notably Joel Edgerton as corrupt FBI agent John Connolly, while Masanobu Takayanagi's (Hostiles) cinematography is delicate of moody hues. There's a fascinating story trying to get out of this, but the 15 year wait to get it to screen hasn't been worth it. There's some truly electric scenes, but they are few and far between, which gives us ultimately just a compact and safe piece of gangster film making. 5/10

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