When it comes to Black Mass all the early attention is on Johnny Depp. Early skepticism transformed into praise following the film’s debut at the Telluride Film Festival. I happily can confirm that Depp is a force to be reckoned with as he offers a menacing performance that paints James Bulger as a master manipulator with nearly no conscious. What has been overlooked at this point is the supporting players that surround Depp.
Matching Depp’s intensity is Joel Edgerton’s performance as John Connolly, the FBI agent who uses his Southie roots to gain the trust of Buldger. Even actors in smaller roles are given a chance to make their mark. The film is dominated by men, but Dakota Johnson and Julianne Nicholson turn in fantastic performances in atypical roles that allow them to step out from the shadows of the men in their lives and make strong choices rather than cowering or pretending to be blind of the world around them. I would have liked more from Johnson’s Lindsey Cyr, the mother to Bulger’s son, but leaving her as something of an enigma – intentional or not – works its own sort of magic.
My only qualm with the film is that, even with a running time that is just over two hours, it feels like there was a lot of information that was sacrificed to give the film a brisk pace. More with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Billy Bulger, James Bulger’s politician brother, would have been warmly welcomed and could have raised the stakes.
Black Mass is a strong gangster drama with an even stronger cast. If you’re a fan of the genre or simply someone looking for an engaging film, then Black Mass is a must-see movie.