‘Black Mass’ guns down any chance of being a classic

By Jacob Pierce |@JacobPierce1_DE |Daily Egyptian

Sometimes, it is better to forego the truth to tell an entertaining story.

“Black Mass,” directed by Scott Cooper and starring Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton fails where other James “Whitey” Bulger adaptations, like “The Departed,”succeed.


Certain movies miss the complexity needed for a compelling film, but can still create successful surface-level entertainment. “Black Mass” exemplifies this idea. 

The film hits the base-level expectations of a gangster movie. There is gun play, illegal activities and tough guys, which is normal for a film like this. But it does not reach the levels of character study in great crime films like “Goodfellas” or “The Departed.”

No character in “Black Mass” goes beyond being one dimensional. Bulger comes off static and flat even though he is a monster who kills with no mercy or motivation.

A biopic needs to show the development of a character’s personality. This movie does not, so Bulger becomes a stereotypical ruthless killer. 

One huge reason behind this is a lack of direction; the movie cannot choose who it wants to follow.

“Black Mass” starts with the framing device of a side character telling the entire story. This seems to go away pretty quickly and the direction switches to Bulger’s tale. The movie switches back and forth so frequently that no character develops.

Johnny Depp’s performance of Bulger is the best thing about the movie. 

While it does not develop this character very well, Depp inhabits the crime boss as close as he can. He becomes “Whitey,” one of the most feared gangsters around. 

The actor fills you with terror in a way only the real gangster could, and he adds the little character motivation Bulger gets in the film.

Stars: 3 out 5

Jacob Pierce can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JacobPierce1_DE.