Depp Is Exceptional In 'Black Mass'
Black Mass is a brilliantly successful realistic gangster movie made exceptional by a remarkable performance by Johnny Depp.
It is a supposedly true story of James "Whitey" Bulger, a truly repellent psychopath who was able to rise to the top of the criminal world in Boston because the FBI protected him from the law. They regarded him as a valuable informant against the Mafia, though Black Mass indicates that he never told them much that they didn't already know. They even did some of his dirty work for him, though as the movie goes along he does more and more of his killing himself, often right out in front of witnesses in broad daylight. Unlike James Cagney in the old studio days, he shows no exceptional quality except maybe courage under fire and definitely a pathological inability to feel emotions.
And unlike the old George Raft and Alan Ladd movies, there is no suspicion of lack of acting ability here. How Depp keeps this emotional cripple out of the old stone-faced tradition of movie tough guys is impossible to detect. The closest parallel I can think of is Lou Gossett, Jr., as the drill instructor in An Officer and a Gentleman, and Gossett was not playing a villain. Even suggestions of feeling for his infant son do not humanize Depp's performance, which apparently is true to the historical facts.
So is the story itself, which is what makes Black Mass depressing to watch. There seems to be only one really honest person in it, and we don't see much of him. The forces of law seem to have no resources except informants, and the system requires that the agents be corrupt.
Black Mass is a movie not to be missed. I just wis
h there wasn't so much reason to believe it.