Black Mass Review

Film Review by Jon E Clist and Clayton Barnett

The Premise
The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.

The Review
Clayton Barnett - Is Black Mass a return to form for Johnny Depp?

Hell yes, after years of forgettable shtick he reminds us what we’ve been missing – a menacing, intense and hypnotic performance whenever he’s on screen. Is it the next Godfather of gangster movies? Sadly no.

One of the highly anticipated films of 2015 sure looks the part with dark shadowing undertones, but Black Mass sorely misses the pacing and energy of a Scorsese gangster pics like Goodfellas and similarly Boston set Whitey Bulger featuring The Departed. For a period film covering the 70s, 80s and early 90s director Scott Cooper should have had a killer soundtrack right out of the Scorsese playbook, but I fear the budget was sunk into his star-studded cast.

What a cast though. Depp aside you’ve got the Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Joel Edgerton, Peter Sarsgaard, and superb efforts from the lesser known likes of Rory Cochrane and Jesse Plemons as Bulger’s right hand men. The film lacks any decent parts for the opposite sex though, but Dakota Johnson and Juno Temple do the best with what they’re given. At least they made the final cut unlike poor Sienna Miller. 

Jon E – Okay so in general I would agree with the basic direction that Clayton has taken with his look at Black Mass however I didn’t feel as strongly about its short comings. I really did feel that this could have been a way better film and yet for me Johnny Depp does more than enough to keep my attention and have me wanting to know more about this historical character of Whitey Bulger. Johnny Depp has been quoted as saying that this is his favourite, out of all the films he has done and I think this really comes through in his performance. Based on his previous outings as Hunter Thompson, Depp has certainly shown the ability to playing the devious and weird. It is rumoured that Johnny Depp tried multiple times to speak to Whitey Bulger while preparing for the role to which Bulger declined.

One of the key elements that is missing in this film is a good soundtrack. With a historical story that floats within the seventies and eighties, there are so many big songs that could have been used to help set the feel and also shape some of the emotional soundscape and yet the opportunity was missed. Yet it is the cast that holds it all together Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch play so well off Depp’s Bulger, while Bacon, Sarsgaard, Harbour and Scott bring the drama in this wonderful ensemble cast.

The Verdict
A brilliant performance from Johnny Depp sees this film hold its own despite some poor directing choices.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 8th October 2015
Rating: R16 – Contains violence and offensive language
Duration: 122 minutes 
Genre:  Drama
Starring: Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson
Director: Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart)

The Extras

In an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (2003), Johnny Depp admitted that he broke his rule of not watching his own movies with this one. He was at the film's debut in Venice. He was about to skip out of watching the film, but the director asked him to stay, so he did.


When he was arrested in 2011, James 'Whitey' Bulger had been on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for 12 years. The $2 million reward the FBI offered for information leading to his capture was larger than that for any other fugitive on the list except Osama bin Laden.