Run time: 123mins

Director: Scott Cooper

Cast: Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Joel Edgerton

Synopsis: In 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly persuades Irish mobster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger to collaborate with the FBI and eliminate a common enemy: the Italian mob.  The drama tells the story of this unholy alliance, which spiralled out of control, allowing ‘Whitey’ to evade law enforcement, consolidate power, and become one of the most ruthless and powerful gangsters in Boston’s history.


Director Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace, 2010; Crazy Heart, 2009) brings to the screen this story based on the life of one of the most notorious gangsters in U.S history. Black Mass marks a return to top form for an unrecognisable Johnny Depp as the thoroughly repulsive and almost inhuman, menacing ‘Whitey’ Bulger, an Irish Mob Godfather and brother of powerful State Senator Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch). Ironically, ‘Whitey’ – the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston – has in fact been recruited as an FBI informant, dedicated to taking down a Mafia family, the Angiulos, invading his turf.

FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), a childhood friend of the Bulger brothers from a tough Boston housing project, approaches ‘Whitey’ with a deal.  In exchange for information about the Angiulos, Bulger will be allowed to carry on his operations in the open. Soon he and his Winter Hill Gang have become the largest organised crime force in the city, seen to be openly engaging in more and more acts of sickening violence.

Black Mass boasts superb acting from the entire ensemble and impressive, atmospheric cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi, with a memorable score from Tom Holkenberg. The film is horrifically violent (with a rather surprising 15 certificate) and the story of Bulger’s rise and fall and the parallel downfall of Agent Connolly feel rather rushed in a two hour film. Based largely on Dick Lehr and Gerard K. O’Neill’s Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil’s Deal, there is enough material available to suggest a (toned down?) TV mini-series might have been more appropriate.

Images courtesy of Warner Bros