Much like the city's other exports, Boston's gangster flicks vary in quality from genre-shattering genius (The Departed, most '90s bands, the people who invented America) to mind-numbing pantomimes of misogyny (The Boondock Saints, Boston sports fans, Mark Wahlberg). Scott Cooper's Black Mass is the latest cinematic try.
It tells the story of Bostonâs most notorious criminal, James âWhiteyâ Bulger (Johnny Depp) and the deal he made with the FBIâs John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) that ensured he could do whatever he wanted for decades. For those doubting Deppâs acting since he just spent a decade doing a Keith Richards impression for Disney, Black Mass should put those doubts to rest. Depp captures Bulger as an affable family man, then a sociopathic murderer. Heâs tortured by grief, then tortures someone ruthlessly. Yet all of Bulgerâs turns are grounded in the same animal intensity, and when he appears at the door to Connollyâs bedroom, heâs every bit as scary as Freddy Krueger. Edgerton excels too, allowing Connolly to build up a clumsy swagger as Whitey builds power. Make no mistake: Within the canon of Boston gangster movies, this one is decidedly of the first order.
SEE IT: Black Mass is rated R. It opens on Friday at most Portland-area cinemas. GRADE A-