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Black Mass

September 17, 2015 by Alison Bailes divider image

With his upturned black leather collar, strangely pale mien and piercing blue eyes with pin-prick pupils, James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) looks a lot like Count Dracula. And director Scott Cooper invites the comparison, shooting Depp as a cold, calculating monster about to devour his enemies. It’s a fair analogy as crime lord Bulger was […]


With his upturned black leather collar, strangely pale mien and piercing blue eyes with pin-prick pupils, James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) looks a lot like Count Dracula. And director Scott Cooper invites the comparison, shooting Depp as a cold, calculating monster about to devour his enemies. It’s a fair analogy as crime lord Bulger was feared and revered on the streets of South Boston in the ‘70s and ‘80s. He was as much of a mythical creature as a vampire or the monster under your bed.

Cooper’s solid, even-keeled drama presents Bulger from his start as a small-time criminal to his rise to vicious crime boss of the Winter Hill Gang. With his right-hand man Flemmi (Rory Cochrane) and muscle Kevin Weeks (Jesse Plemons), Bulger cuts a familiar cinematic figure, especially resonant in gangster films set or shot in the 1970s. The drab palate and backgrounds of urban decay further aid the mood of lawless anarchy and corruption. The script by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth (based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill) paints an expansive picture of the times, and the screen is filled with authentic characters and complex relationships. Yet, the end result is more removed than engaged. Everything and everyone looks and sounds right, so why isn’t this film about one of America’s most colorful gangsters more gripping? Continue reading…


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